UNITED NATIONS (PA) – Yemen’s economy is collapsing, its humanitarian crisis is deepening and conflict in the poorest country in the Arab world is growing more violent, deputy chief of aid said on Thursday UN humanitarian aid.
Under-Secretary-General Ramesh Rajasingham’s sinister remarks came during a briefing at the UN Security Council. More than 20 million Yemenis – two-thirds of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance, but aid agencies, he said, “are once again starting to run out of money” .
Aid agencies are now helping nearly 13 million people across the country, about 3 million more than a few months ago, Rajasingham added. “Our best assessment is that this expansion has significantly pushed back the immediate risk of large-scale famine. “
But he warned that aid agencies do not have enough money to continue on this scale and “in the weeks and months to come up to 4 million people could see their food aid reduced” and ” by the end of the year, that number could reach 5 million people.
“We call on everyone to do everything possible to maintain the momentum we have built over the past few months and keep starvation at bay,” he said.
Yemen has been in the throes of civil war since 2014, when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sana’a and much of the country’s north, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee south. , then to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition went to war in March 2015, backed by the United States, in an attempt to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power, and supported his government. Despite a relentless air campaign and fighting on the ground, the war has largely deteriorated to a stalemate and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The United States has since suspended its direct involvement in the conflict.
In early 2020, the Houthis launched an offensive in the majority government-controlled Marib province that claimed the lives of thousands of young people and left thousands of displaced civilians living in constant fear of violence and having to do it again. to relocate.
Yemeni tribal leaders and officials on Thursday said fighting for Marib in the past 24 hours has killed at least 140 fighters on both sides. The clashes were taking place in the districts of Abdiya and al-Jubah, they said.
During the briefing to the Security Council, Rajasingham said the Houthis “have stepped up their brutal offensive in Marib, taking more territory there and in neighboring parts of the southern province of Shabwa.
He also highlighted clashes between rival armed groups earlier this month in the southern city of Aden – where Hadi’s government established its headquarters after the Houthis drove them out of Sana’a and the north – and the continued fighting, shelling and airstrikes in northwest Saada and western Hajjah and Hodeidah provinces “and along nearly 50 other front lines”.
In September, 235 civilians were killed or wounded, the second highest figure in two years, and the fighting in Marib is “a particularly heavy civilian toll”, with nearly 10,000 people displaced in September, the second highest figure. raised in two years, says Rajasingham.
The new UN special envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, who took office last month, told the council he had held meetings with government and Houthi officials, as well as regional and regional officials. key international issues, focusing on how to move forward towards a political solution. restore peace to Yemen.
“The gap in trust between the belligerents is wide and growing,” he said in a virtual briefing.
Grundberg said he made it clear that if progress was to be made on urgent humanitarian and economic issues, urgent political talks without preconditions were essential to negotiate a settlement to the conflict.
“Let’s face it, it will be a laborious and complicated task that will take time but it has to happen,” said Grundberg. “The past few weeks have illustrated the tension between the pace of war and economic collapse on the one hand, and the time needed to design and consult on a possible way forward, on the other.”
Rajasingham reiterated that Yemen’s economic collapse “is at the root of most of the country’s needs, including the risk of famine.”
Yemen imports almost everything, he said, and the Yemeni rial is trading for around 1,270 rials to the dollar in Aden, nearly six times more than before the war, and less goods reach the country’s ports. Commercial food imports to key ports in Hodeidah and Saleef were 8% below last year’s average in September, and “fuel imports were alarmingly 64% down,” he said. -he declares.
He called for immediate measures to stem the country’s economic collapse, including injections of currency through the Central Bank, which would bring prices down quickly, as in the past, as well as the full opening of all markets. ports, lifting of import restrictions at Hodeidah and Saleef, and paying civil servants’ salaries.
Associated Press writer Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed to this report.