The UN humanitarian chief has said a “humanitarian catastrophe” is unfolding in Yemen with more than 21 million Yemenis in need of some form of aid. Stephen O’Brien said on Tuesday that the situation was exacerbated by increased restrictions on efforts to respond to what he called the “staggering needs” of millions of people, including the diversion of a UN aid ship by Saudi-led coalition forces.
O’Brien said that more than 6,000 people had been killed since the beginning of coalition strikes against Houthi rebels in March 2015, of which about half were civilians. He said more than 700 children had been killed and some 1,000 injured.
At least 7.6 million people were now “severely food insecure” and more than 3.4 million children were out of school, the official said. O’Brien’s briefing to the UN Security Council, which was requested by Russia, was the first that focused on the humanitarian crisis sparked by the war.
He said the Houthi rebels had been inconsistent in allowing access and movement of humanitarian goods and personnel, and that a recent warning by Saudi Arabia about the safety of aid workers in “Houthi-controlled areas” had caused delays to key missions.
The UN official urged the council to demand that all combatants facilitate unconditional humanitarian access to all parts of Yemen. “UN agencies and NGO partners are delivering assistance under extraordinarily difficult and dangerous circumstances,” O’Brien said.