Yemen is in a “desperate situation” as it stands on the brink of famine and hundreds of thousands of people face starvation, the UN secretary general has warned.
António Guterres told Sky News he was “extremely worried” by the situation in the war-torn country, and urged nations across the world to show international solidarity with its “generous people”.
The country has been devastated by a conflict that has raged since 2014 between Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi’s administration and the Houthi armed movement, both of which claim to form the official government.
Mr Hadi’s government is supported by a coalition of powerful countries headed by Saudi Arabia but also backed by Britain, the US and the United Arab Emirates.
With the existing crisis now being worsened by coronavirus, the United Nations says more than 20 million people require urgent humanitarian assistance due to the ongoing conflict – almost half of them children.
The UK government says the famine in Yemen “has never looked more likely”.
And Mr Guterres told Sky News: “We need to mobilise resources for humanitarian aid, which is now very much below the level that is necessary.
“We are in a very dramatic situation.
“We need to put an end to the conflict, we need to make sure that we move into a political process, and at the same time we need to mobilise resources and to create conditions for access to support a population that is in a desperate situation.
“If I may say something, and I was [the UN’s] High Commissioner for Refugees, the Yemeni people were always extremely generous.
“They were receiving refugees from Somalia, coming to their shores, sharing their resources with them, even with the conflict inside Yemen.
“And always sharing what they had and what they had not. These generous people now need international solidarity.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK would provide another £5.8m in UK aid to help avert a famine in the country.
His department said UK support would help at least 500,000 vulnerable people each month to buy food and household essentials, including soap and medicine.
And speaking in New York at a meeting of permanent UN Security Council members, Mr Raab said: “The humanitarian situation in Yemen is now the worst it has ever been, and compounded with the threat of coronavirus, the country has never looked more likely to slide into famine.
“Unless donors urgently act now and follow through on their pledges, hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of dying simply from starvation.”
Mr Raab also called for “unwavering support” for plans to secure a ceasefire that ends the suffering.
The UK’s first special envoy for famine prevention and humanitarian affairs, Nick Dyer, said he would be urgently raising the increasing risk of famine with allies over coming weeks in an effort to prompt action.
“There is no plan B for Yemen,” he said.
“The wartorn country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, with hundreds of thousands at risk, unless world leaders take urgent action now.”