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World
02 Dec 2018

Yemen on brink of 'major catastrophe': UN aid chief Lowcock

UN pushes for peace talks in Yemen

UN aid chief Mark Lowcock warned yesterday that Yemen was "on the brink of a major catastrophe," as the world body pushes for peace talks in the impoverished and war-wracked country.

Lowcock's comments came after renewed deadly clashes between Huthi rebels and pro-government forces in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, which is vital for the flow of humanitarian aid.

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In context

UN pushes for peace talks in Yemen
UN has termed Yemen crisis as world's worst humanitarian crisis

Worst situation

UN has termed Yemen crisis as world's worst humanitarian crisis

Lowcock, as he wrapped up a visit to the country, said, "Yemen is on the brink of a major catastrophe."

He said conditions had deteriorated alarmingly since his last visit in Oct'17 to Yemen, which the United Nations has termed the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"In Aden, I met emaciated children so malnourished they could barely open their eyes," Lowcock said in a statement.

Millions of Yemenis are on the verge of famine: Lowcock

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Children's condition

Children relapsing again and again because families can't afford food

"Humanitarian assistance helps many of these children recover. But I also heard heartbreaking stories of children relapsing again and again because their families simply can't afford food or proper medical care," the UN aid chief said.

Lowcock reiterated the UN's readiness to help ensure that the rebel-held Hodeida port, a key entry point for imports and aid, can remain open.

Sporadic fighting continued as truce began on November 13

Under heavy international pressure, Saudi-backed pro-government forces have largely suspended an offensive launched in June to take the port city. Sporadic fighting has however continued since a fragile truce began on November 13.

Hodeida: Eight fighters killed in the Friday clashes

Clashes

Hodeida: Eight fighters killed in the Friday clashes

Clashes on Friday in the east and south of Hodeida left 10 fighters dead, an official and medical sources told media agency yesterday.

Medical sources confirmed the bodies of eight rebels had been transferred to hospitals, and that two fighters with pro-government forces were also killed. Intermittent clashes continued even yesterday.

Saudi Arabia had accused Huthis of launching military projectile across the border Friday

Peace talks

Rebels and Saudi-led government backed the proposed peace talks

Saudi Arabia accused the Huthis saying the military projectile hit a house and injured two people in the kingdom.

The violence follows a visit to Hodeida last month by UN envoy Martin Griffiths to press for talks.

The proposed peace talks have been backed by both the rebels and the Saudi-led government and were expected to take place in Sweden next week.

Plans

UN Secretary-General hopes peace talks with Huthi start this year

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, however, has played down the early December schedule and said he hoped talks would start "this year".

"But, as you know, there have been some setbacks," he said on Thursday.

Previous talks planned for September in Geneva failed to get underway as the Huthi delegation never left Yemen's rebel-held capital Sanaa, arguing that the UN couldn't guarantee their safe return.

Donation

$2.3 billion donated this year for the humanitarian operation

Lowcock said it was "not too late" to pull back Yemen from the brink but warned that more resources were needed.

"Yemen is the world's largest humanitarian operation, but in 2019 it will need to be substantially bigger," he said.

Donors this year have provided $2.3 billion for the 2018 response plan, or about 80% of requirements, he added.

Khashoggi's death has shone a harsh spotlight on Saudi

Khashoggi's death

Khashoggi's death has shone a harsh spotlight on Saudi

The latest warnings come as President Donald Trump's administration faces mounting pressure over its backing for the Saudi-led military campaign, with the US Senate on Wednesday voting to consider a resolution that would end this support.

The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on October 2 has shone a harsh spotlight on the kingdom.

Threat

14 million people at risk of starvation in Yemen: UN

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo acknowledged the humanitarian crisis in Yemen had reached "epic proportions" but insisted that US backing for Riyadh's actions would continue.

According to UN figures, nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition joined the conflict in 2015 to bolster the government against Huthi rebels.

UN agencies say that 14mn people are at risk of starvation in Yemen.

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