UN urges aid access to Yemen ports to avert looming famine

DUBAI: 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 UN 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. Fighting in or near ports hampers access for aid coming from outside.
“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 UN said the coalition air strikes on the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, which serves territory controlled by the rebels, 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 said.
Nearly 3.3 million people in Yemen — including 2.1 million children — are acutely malnourished, the UN says. They include 460,000 children under age of five with the worst form of malnutrition, who risk dying of pneumonia or diarrhoea.
O’Brien has also met with the rebel 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 Ansarullah militiamen.
UN 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.
— Reuters