Antonio Guterres warns situation in Yemen could lead to ‘worst famine we have seen in decades’
By Michael Hernandez
UN chief Antonio Guterres on Friday demanded an “immediate” end to the war in Yemen amid incredibly dire humanitarian conditions there.
“Violence must stop everywhere – with an immediate halt around critical infrastructure and densely populated areas,” Guterres told reporters at the UN’s New York headquarters.
Yemen has been wracked by conflict since Houthi rebels overthrew the international-recognized government in the country in 2014. A Saudi-led military offensive, accused of widespread rights abuses, has since sought to dislodge the rebel group, but has failed to do so during the more than three-year campaign.
The UN has repeatedly called the situation in Yemen the worst humanitarian crisis in the world amid widespread poverty and dire food shortages exacerbated by a partial blockade instituted by the Saudi-led coalition. Even prior to the conflict, Yemen was the Arab world’s poorest nation.
The secretary general warned that Yemen’s conflict could quickly deteriorate “into the worst famine we have seen in decades.”
“The urgency of the humanitarian crisis leaves no room for complacency,” he said. “This is not a natural disaster. It is man-made. Yemen today stands on a precipice.”
Guterres urged the Houthis, the Saudi coalition and the forces it supports “to overcome obstacles and to resolve still existing differences through dialogue” at UN-facilitated talks scheduled for later in November.
The UN envoy for the Yemen conflict announced talks after calls by U.S., French and British officials for a 30-day ceasefire in the country, and for talks to end the war.
Roughly 1.8 million Yemeni children and 1.1 million pregnant or breastfeeding mothers currently suffer from severe malnourishment, according to the UN’s children emergency fund.
UNICEF said that number includes 400,000 children who are suffering from “severe acute malnutrition.”