6.8 million Yemenis ‘one step’ away from famine

More than 17 million people desperately need food in Yemen, including 6.8 million who are ‘one step’ away from famine.

Civil war is causing Yemen to spiral toward total collapse with the threat of famine increasing and over 55,000 suspected cholera cases since late April, the UN humanitarian chief warned on Tuesday.

“Yemen now has the ignominy of being the world’s largest food security crisis,” Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council.

More than 17 million people desperately need food, including 6.8 million who are “one step away from famine,” he said.

“The people of Yemen are being subjected to deprivation, disease and death as the world watches,” O’Brien warned.

The UN chief has called for urgent action “to stem the suffering” in the Arab world’s poorest nation, stressing that if there was no conflict “there would be no descent into famine, misery, disease and death.”

This comes after the World Health Organisation announced that nearly 500 have died as a result of the cholera outbreak.

‘Serious negotiations’

Meanwhile, the UN envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, told the council that serious negotiations on the first steps to a cessation of hostilities have been slow and the key parties are reluctant to even discuss the concessions needed for peace.

“I will not hide that we are not close to a comprehensive agreement,” he said.

Yemen has been engulfed in civil war since September 2014 when Houthi rebels swept into the capital of Sanaa and overthrew President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognised government.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition, backed by the United States, began a campaign against Houthi forces allied with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh in support of Hadi’s government. Since then, the Iranian-backed Houthis have been dislodged from most of the south, but remain in control of Sanaa and much of the north.