Thursday, 23 May, 2019

United Nations chief demands Yemen peace, warns of humanitarian 'precipice'

Women artists at work during the Misk Art festival in Riyadh Women artists at work during the Misk Art festival in Riyadh
Patty Aguilar | 04 November, 2018, 16:03

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Yemen is teetering "on a precipice", appealing to the global community to put an end to the Saudi war on the impoverished nation, more than three-and-a-half years after the regime and a number of its allies invaded the peninsular country.

On Thursday, Yemen's internationally recognised government said it was ready to re-start peace talks with the Houthis after recent efforts to meet ended in failure.

Geert Cappelaere, Middle East director for the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF), described "heart-breaking" scenes of emaciated children in hospitals in the main port city of Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa, both held by Houthi insurgents.

Without resolution to ongoing conflict, Yemen could face world's "worst famine" for decades, Antonio Guterres says.

"While the warring parties discuss the terms of this peace, we urge them to immediately stop the fighting so more lives aren't lost", Save the Children said in a statement and called for full access for aid and commercial imports. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called for a halt to hostilities within 30 days. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food. That "subsequently" provided an opening for the coalition to continue its air campaign.

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Saudi Arabia, an ally of the United States - which sells weapons worth billions of dollars and provides logistical support to the coalition - has come under heavy criticism for its conduct of the war that has left thousands dead and injured.

"An end to the conflict is ... a much-needed step but it needs to be complemented with investment and governance of this country that puts the interest of the people at the centre and the interest of the children at the core of politics", Cappelaere said. Up to 5.5 million people might be added to the number of food insecure because of price hikes caused by the freefall in value of the local currency.

In particular fighting has brokenout in regions surrounding the largest hospital in the port city of Hodeidah, which has made it hard to access those most in need, including children.

Measles, cholera and diphtheria can be deadly for children, especially those under five, and are exacerbated by malnutrition.

Earlier this week, the coalition sent more than 10,000 new troops towards Hodeidah ahead of a new offensive aimed at securing "areas liberated" from the Houthis, according to Yemeni government officials.

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