The UN on Friday called the humanitarian situation in Yemen “bleak” and said they are losing the battle against famine in the country.
Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA), made the comments while briefing the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
Lowcock said millions of people across the country are at risk of dying due to food scarcity and that the situation has deteriorated in an “alarming” fashion.
“We are already seeing pockets of famine-like conditions — including cases where people are eating leaves because they have no other form of sustenance.”
He said 75 percent of Yemen’s population of around 22 million are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance.
Impoverished Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014 when Shia Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa and Al-Hudaydah province.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains and shoring up the country’s pro-Saudi government.
The violence has devastated Yemen’s basic infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe the situation as “one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times”.
“We may now be approaching a tipping point, beyond which, it will be impossible to prevent massive loss of life as a result of widespread famine across the country,” Lowcock said.
He noted, however, that the situation has remained stable and that the worst loss of life has been avoided thanks to relief efforts.