Threat of a famine looms large in Yemen: UN official

Mark Lowcock, the United States Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told the United Nations Security Council on September 15 that the spectre of famine has returned to Yemen as donor countries fail to make good on their 2020 pledges, amidst an upsurge in fighting, fresh hurdles for aid deliveries, and ongoing efforts to nail down a nationwide ceasefire. 

“Unfortunately, those who are in a position to help – and who have a particular responsibility to do so – are mostly choosing not to,” he said, emphasizing that more than 9 million people have been affected by deep cuts to aid programmes. 

“Continuing to hold back money from the humanitarian response now will be a death sentence for many families,” relief chief Lowcock said, calling on all donors to pay their pledges and increase their funding. 

Martin Griffiths, the UN’s Special Envoy for Yemen, updating the Security Council on political developments, said that increased fighting – particularly around the northern city of Ma’rib – alongside greater humanitarian needs and the COVID-19 pandemic, mean that Yemen is slipping away from the road to peace. 

The UN ranks Yemen as the world’s most serious humanitarian crisis, the result of five years of conflict, disease, economic collapse and a breakdown of public institutions and services – leaving a staggering 80 per cent of its population of 30.5 million, dependent on aid. 

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