DUBAI Feb 28 A United Nations official visiting
both sides in Yemen's civil war has urged them to guarantee more
access to the country's ports to let food, fuel and medicine
imports in to help ward off a looming famine.
Emergency relief coordinator Stephen O'Brien said the U.N.
was urging international donors to step up their aid but the
Yemenis had to ensure it could reach up to seven million people
now facing severe food shortages.
Yemen has been divided by nearly two years of civil war that
pits the Iran-allied Houthi group against a Western-backed
coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
At least 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting that
has unleashed a humanitarian crisis on the impoverished country.
Fighting in or near ports hampers access for aid coming from
"The international community needs to step up its funding
and the parties to the conflict need to continue providing
humanitarian access," O'Brien told journalists at the
government's base in Aden late on Monday.
"This also means access to the ports so that the needed
imports can enter Yemen," he said.
Earlier this month, the U.N. said Saudi-led coalition air
strikes on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, which serves territory
controlled by the Houthis, had hampered humanitarian operations
to import vital food and fuel supplies.
Five cranes at the port have been destroyed, forcing dozens
of ships to line up offshore because they cannot be unloaded.
"Seven million people don't know where their next meal is
coming from and we now face a serious risk of famine," O'Brien
Nearly 3.3 million people in Yemen - including 2.1 million
children - are acutely malnourished, the U.N. says. They include
460,000 children under age of five with the worst form of
malnutrition, who risk dying of pneumonia or diarrhea.
O'Brien has also met with the Houthi movement in the capital
Sanaa. On Tuesday, he was due to visit the flashpoint city of
Taiz, which humanitarian groups say has suffered shortages due
to curbs imposed by Houthi militiamen.
U.N. has appealed for $2.1 billion to provide food and other
life-saving aid, saying that Yemen's economy and institutions
are collapsing and its infrastructure has been devastated.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said last week only
$90 million of funding has been received so far, out of $5.6
billion needed this year for humanitarian operations in Nigeria,
Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.
(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Tom Heneghan)