UN warns Yemen could see ‘worst famine in a century’ in coming months

Yemen is on the verge of the “worst famine in a century”, the United Nations has warned.

As many as 13 million civilians are at risk of dying from the lack of food in the war-torn country in the next three months, according to Lisa Grande, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.

“I think many of us felt as we went into the 21st century that is was unthinkable that we could see a famine like saw in Ethiopia, that we saw in Bengal, that we saw in parts of the Soviet Union, that was just unacceptable,” said Ms Grande.

“Many of us had the confidence that that would never happen again and yet the reality is that in Yemen that is precisely what we are looking at.”

Yemen has been in the grip of a civil war for three years after Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, seized much of the country.

Saudi Arabia, which backs the government, has imposed a blockade on the main Houthi-controlled port, restricting the amount of food and other aid allowed into the country.

The warning came as UN and humanitarian workers condemned an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels that reportedly killed at least 15 civilians near the port city of Hodeida.

 

Video footage released by the Houthis showed a mangled minibus littered with groceries and a woman’s hand bag, with rebel officials saying a day earlier that the airstrike in the Jebel Ras area had also wounded 20 others.

The Houthis said that five members of the same family were killed in the vehicle, adding that many women and children were among the casualties.

Eyewitnesses who declined to be named for fear of their safety said that the attack appeared to target a rebel checkpoint in the area.

“The United Nations agencies working in Yemen unequivocally condemn the attack on civilians and extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims,” said said Ms Grande.

“Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict are obliged to respect the principles of precaution, proportionality and distinction,” said Ms Grande. “Belligerents must do everything possible to protect civilians – not hurt, maim, injure or kill them,” she added.

Hodeida, with its key port installations that bring in UN and other humanitarian aid, has become the centre of Yemen’s conflict, with ground troops allied to the coalition struggling to drive out the rebels controlling it.

The UN in Yemen says that since June, more than 170 people have been killed and at least 1,700 have been injured in Hodeida province, with over 425,000 people forced to flee their homes. Agencies

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