The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that 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.
Stephen O’Brien told the U.N. Security Council that “Yemen now has the ignominy of being the world’s largest food security crisis.” 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.
He said the country’s “spiral downwards towards a total social, economic and institutional collapse” is a direct consequence of actions by fighters loyal to the former president and Shiite Houthi rebels and their supporters.
But it “is also, sadly, a result of inaction — whether due to inability or indifference — by the international community,” he said.
O’Brien 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.”
But the U.N. 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 from this council that we are not close to a comprehensive agreement,” he said.
Yemen, which is on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, 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 recognized 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…