UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Friday that war-torn Yemen “is now in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen in decades.”
Guterre’s warning comes as the United States threatens to blacklist Yemen’s Iranian ally Houthi group as part of its “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran. Aid workers have raised fears that such a move would prevent life-saving aid from reaching the country.
“I urge all those in power to act as soon as possible on these issues to avert the catastrophe, and I also ask that everyone avoid taking any action that could make the already dangerous situation even worse,” Guterres said in a statement.
A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 and supported government forces fighting the Houthi group. UN officials are trying to revive peace talks to end the war as the country’s suffering is also exacerbated by an economic and currency collapse and the COVID-19 pandemic.
We provide food for 13 million people in Yemen – of which 9 million already have half rations. In January, we will be forced to reduce rations again if no funds arrive.
This is going to be a disaster, which is why I urged @UN’s Security Council not to turn its back on the people of #Yemen. pic.twitter.com/ABBuY1AqO2
– David Beasley (@WFPChief) November 12, 2020
“In the absence of immediate action, millions of lives could be lost,” Guterres said.
The UN describes Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of the people needing help.
A senior Western diplomat said such a blacklist of the Houthis by the United States “would certainly not contribute to progress in Yemen.” “It is likely that they want to do what is necessary to increase the pressure on Iran,” the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
UN Secretary-General Mark Lowcock has said the UN has received less than half of what it needed this year – about $ 1.5 billion – for its humanitarian efforts in Yemen. Last year, it received $ 3 billion.