Crisis in Yemen worsening

A child carries a kettle while another sits on the ground
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“Yemen is getting more violent, not less. The conflict is getting worse.” That was the stark message delivered to the United Nations Security Council by the Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs describing the war in one of the world’s poorest countries as “brutal and unwinnable”.

The head of the World Food Programme also reported that his organisation was being prevented from feeding the hungriest in Yemen with food assistance provided by the UN being diverted in areas controlled by the Houthi movement that is officially known as Ansar Allah.

A conflict that began in 2015.

And one that has claimed in excess of 70 000 lives while 80% of the population or more than 24 million people in need of assistance.

Mark Lowcock is the Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, “An independent study by the University of Denver, commissioned by the UN Development Programme, recently used a global model to forecast the impact of continuing conflict in Yemen. If fighting lasts until 2022, we can expect close to half a million total deaths – including more than 300 000 people who will die from hunger, lack of healthcare and related causes. That’s twice as many people dying as the model predicts if the war were to stop this year. We would also see a profound decline in the status of survivors throughout the country. A quarter of children would be malnourished, and nearly 40 per cent of children would be out of school.”

The UN’s response plan at $4.2 billion for this year is the world’s largest but concerns have been conveyed to the Security Council after Ansar Allah-affiliated authorities prevented or delayed 55 UN field missions this year alone.

David Beasley is Executive Director of the World Food Programme, “As I told the Security Council in November last year, the situation in Yemen was and is catastrophic. Livelihoods have been destroyed, the economy is in shambles. We are now feeding over 10 million people a month. But as the Head of the World Food Programme, I cannot assure you that all the assistance is going to those who need it the most. Why? Because we are not allowed to operate independently. And because aid is being diverted for profit. The bottom line is this: food is being taken from the mouths of hungry little boys and little girls who need it just to survive.”

With warnings that a phased suspension of food assistance could begin if the Houthi movement does not honour agreements with the UN.

“This is not just about Yemen. This is about the integrity of the entire United Nations and the humanitarian system around the world. That’s what is at stake. Mr President, while we’re are not giving up and I still have hope that we will prevail about what is right and the Houthi leadership will do what is good. We are not asking the Ansar Allah Movement anything. All we are asking them is let us do our job,” adds Beasley.

The Ansar Allah – or Houthi movement has been engaged in an ongoing conflict with the Yemeni Government under President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi since 2015 while UN-led efforts towards a political agreement continue.

Martin Griffiths is the Secretary General’s Special Envoy on Yemen,”The Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah have consistently affirmed to me that a political solution is the only solution to this conflict. The longer the conflict goes on, the more challenges we will face in resolving it and reversing its terrible effects. The continued dialogue between the parties to implement the Stockholm agreement is significant, but it is not enough for the Yemeni people. They want their suffering to end now and not tomorrow.”

But concerns remain that the peace process is in danger of losing momentum.