The United Nations appealed on Friday to the Saudi-led military coalition to fully lift its blockade of Yemen, saying up to eight million people were “right on the brink of famine”.
Earlier this week the coalition partially eased its blockade to let aid into the ports of Hodeidah and Salif and UN flights into Sanaa. But aid shipments cover only a fraction of Yemen’s needs, since almost all food, fuel and medicine are imported.
The coalition, which is backed by the United States and other countries, began the blockade on Nov. 6 after Saudi Arabia intercepted a missile fired from Yemen toward its capital Riyadh. A second missile was shot down on Thursday.
“That blockade has been partially wound down but not fully wound down. It needs to be fully wound down if we are to avoid an atrocious humanitarian tragedy involving the loss of millions of lives, the like of which the world has not seen for many decades,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said.
“Yemen has a population of 25 million people. Twenty million of them need assistance and something like seven or eight million of them are, right now, right on the brink of famine,” he said as he launched the UN’s 2018 humanitarian appeal.
Lowcock sidestepped reporters’ questions on whether the Saudi-led blockade amounted to a violation of international law, though he said the United Nations had consistently urged all parties in the conflict to respect their obligations.
“I’m not a lawyer but clearly international humanitarian law includes a requirement to facilitate unhindered access for aid agencies, and that’s what I’ve been trying to secure both inwhat I’ve said publicly and also in my private dialogue,” he said.