UN warns of impending famine in conflict-torn Yemen

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
Cut Off From the World: The Plight of Yemen

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The U.N. special envoy for Yemen warned Wednesday that the conflict-torn Middle East nation is "one step" from famine, with 31 million people in need of humanitarian assistance compared with just 7 million two years ago.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told reporters after briefing the U.N. Security Council behind closed doors that all parties to the conflict are responsible for the dire suffering of the Yemeni people until there is "a true cease-fire."

The humanitarian crisis in the Arab world's poorest country has escalated as the conflict has intensified.

41 PHOTOS
Yemen Unrest
See Gallery
UN warns of impending famine in conflict-torn Yemen
Boys gather at the site of a car bomb attack in Sanaa, Yemen, Thursday, June 18, 2015. A series of Islamic State-claimed bombings in Yemen's rebel-controlled capital killed several people and wounded dozens Wednesday night amid the country's raging war. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Smoke rises after a Saudi-led airstrike hit a site believed to be one of the largest weapons depot on the outskirts of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. Saudi-led airstrikes hit a convoy of civilians fleeing fighting in southern Yemen early Wednesday, killing tens of people in an attack among the deadliest of the 3-month-old air campaign, medics said. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yemenis inspect a destroyed building in Aden's suburbs on June 24, 2015 after rebel forces and loyalist fighters were locked in fierce fighting. Warplanes from the Saudi-led Arab coalition have launched heavy raids against rebel positions in seven Yemeni provinces, according to witnesses and military sources. AFP PHOTO / SALEH AL-OBEIDI (Photo credit should read SALEH AL-OBEIDI/AFP/Getty Images)
Smoke rises after a Saudi-led airstrike hit a site where many believe the largest weapons cache in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, is located on Monday, April 20, 2015. Powerful explosions rocked the Yemeni capital early Monday morning amid the strike, shattering windows and waking residents up. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Smoke billows from the Faj Attan Hill following a reported airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on an army arms depot, now under Huthi rebel control, on April 20, 2015, in Sanaa. The UN this week called the humanitarian crisis in Yemen one of the 'largest and most complex in the world'. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
SANAA, YEMEN - MARCH 30: Shiite Houthis use anti-aircraft guns as the Saudi-led coalition strikes hit Houthi targets in Sanaa as part of the 'Decisive Storm' operation in Sanaa, Yemen on March 30, 2015. (Photo by Sinan Yiter/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANAA, YEMEN - MARCH 30: Shiite Houthis use anti-aircraft guns as the Saudi-led coalition strikes hit Houthi targets in Sanaa as part of the 'Decisive Storm' operation in Sanaa, Yemen on March 30, 2015. (Photo by Sinan Yiter/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A Pakistani woman (R), evacuated from Yemen, is greeted by relative on her arrival in Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad on March 30, 2015. Pakistan evacuated more than 500 of its citizens from Yemen by jumbo jet and sent a naval frigate to rescue others stranded in the war-torn country, officials said. AFP PHOTO / FAROOQ NAEEM (Photo credit should read FAROOQ NAEEM/AFP/Getty Images)
SANAA, YEMEN - MARCH 30: Houthis attack Saudi-led coalition with anti-aircraft weapons after coalition carried out airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen on March 30, 2015 as part of the 'Decisive Storm' operation against the Houthis. (Photo by Sinan Yiter/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANAA, YEMEN - MARCH 30: Houthis attack Saudi-led coalition with anti-aircraft weapons after coalition carried out airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen on March 30, 2015 as part of the 'Decisive Storm' operation against the Houthis. (Photo by Sinan Yiter/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANAA, YEMEN - MARCH 27: Smoke rises after Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen on March 30, 2015 as part of the 'Decisive Storm' operation against the Houthis. (Photo by Sinan Yiter/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANAA, YEMEN - MARCH 27: Smoke rises after Saudi-led coalition carried out airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen on March 30, 2015 as part of the 'Decisive Storm' operation against the Houthis. (Photo by Sinan Yiter/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen, Thursday, March 26, 2015. Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes Thursday targeting military installations in Yemen held by Shiite rebels who were taking over a key port city in the country's south and had driven the embattled president to flee by sea, security officials said. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
SANAA, YEMEN - MARCH 26: Yemeni men search for survivors in rubble of buildings after airstrikes of a 10-member coalition of Gulf countries in Yemeni capital Sanaa on March 26, 2015. Saudi Arabia has launched military operations in Yemen, as part of a coalition of over 10 countries in response to a direct request from the legitimate government of Yemen, against the Shiite Houthi group, which seized capital Sanaa and several provinces. (Photo by Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen, Thursday, March 26, 2015. Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes Thursday targeting military installations in Yemen held by Shiite rebels who were taking over a key port city in the country's south and had driven the embattled president to flee by sea, security officials said. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
People search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen, Thursday, March 26, 2015. Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes Thursday targeting military installations in Yemen held by Shiite rebels who were taking over a key port city in the country's south and had driven the embattled president to flee by sea, security officials said. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
A Houthi Shiite fighter stand guard as people search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen, Thursday, March 26, 2015. Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes Thursday targeting military installations in Yemen held by Shiite rebels who were taking over a key port city in the country's south and had driven the embattled president to flee by sea, security officials said. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
A Yemeni man sits in the rubble of his house in the Yemeni capital on March 26, 2015 after Saudi air strikes against Huthi rebels near Sanaa Airport. Saudi Arabia launched a military operation overnight in Yemen by a regional coalition to defend the government of embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi as the country teeters on the brink of civil war. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Yemeni civilians and security forces stand at the site of a Saudi air strike against Huthi rebels near Sanaa Airport on March 26, 2015, which killed at least 13 people. Saudi warplanes bombed Huthi rebels in Yemen, launching a military intervention by a 10-nation coalition to prevent the fall of embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
SANAA, YEMEN - MARCH 22: A group of people hold banners as they march during a demonstration against Shiite Houthi movement that interfere to the country's government, at Gamal Abdul Nasser Street in Taizz, Yemen on March 22, 2015. (Photo by Waddah Abdulqade Abdulqawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Yemenis drive in a car loaded with their belongings in the Yemeni capital as they move to a safer place on March 26, 2015 after Saudi air strikes against Huthi rebels near Sanaa Airport. Saudi Arabia launched a military operation overnight in Yemen by a regional coalition to defend the government of embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi as the country teeters on the brink of civil war. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
FILE - In this Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012 file photo,Yemen's Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi gestures as he enters a polling center to cast his vote in Sanaa. Yemen's embattled president fled his palace in Aden for an undisclosed location Wednesday as Shiite rebels offered cash bounty for his capture and arrested his defense minister. Hadi left just hours after the rebels' own television station said they seized an air base where U.S. troops and Europeans advised the country in its fight against al-Qaida militants. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)
Houthi Shiite fighters, background, patrol as their comrades attend the funeral procession of victims who were killed from triple suicide bombings that hit a pair of mosques in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
In this Tuesday, March 17, 2015 photo, Abdul-Lateef al-Sayed al-Bafqeeh, leader and founder of the government-backed militia formally known as the “Popular Committees,”listens to a reporter during an interview with The Associated Press in southern Abyan province, Yemen. Al-Bafqeeh and his militiamen joined the military in its campaign to expel al-Qaida from Abyan, ending a 14-month occupation by the terror group in 2012. Now he and his men will be the ones thrown into the thick of battle in Yemen’s seemingly imminent civil war, fighting alongside fellow southern Yemenis loyal to embattled president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi against northern forces loyal to the nation’s ousted leader and his Iranian-backed Shiite rebel allies. (AP Photo/Yassir Hassan)
Houthi Shiite mourners attend the funeral procession of victims who were killed from a triple suicide bombing attack on mosques in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
FILE - In this Friday, March 20, 2015 file photo, militiamen loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ride on an army vehicle on a street in Aden, Yemen. Yemen’s Shiite rebels, backed by supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have seized the third-largest city after capturing the capital Sanaa in September, effectively splitting the country in half and hindering U.S. efforts to combat a powerful local al-Qaida affiliate. Hadi, a close U.S. ally, fled house arrest in Sanaa last month and has set up a base in the port city of Aden, the former capital of the once-independent south. (AP Photo/Yassir Hassan, FIle)
FILE - In this Thursday, March 19, 2015 file photo, a Yemeni man wears a gas mask that he looted from a base that belonged to police special forces loyal to ousted longtime autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as he walks around outside the base in Aden, Yemen. Militiamen loyal to the current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ride on armored vehicles in the background. (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi, File)
A militiaman loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi talks to a driver after he looted a material from a base that belonged to police special forces loyal to ousted longtime autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Aden, Yemen, Thursday, March 19, 2015. Forces loyal to former President Saleh stormed the international airport in the southern port city of Aden on Thursday. Later, the pro-Hadi troops and militiamen completely retook the airport. They then stormed the nearby base of the pro-Saleh police special forces. (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi)
Militiamen loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ride on a tank on a street in Aden, Yemen, Thursday, March 19, 2015. Forces loyal to Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stormed the international airport in the southern port city of Aden on Thursday, triggering an intense, hours-long gunbattle with the forces of the current president Hadi that intensified a monthslong struggle for power threatening to fragment the nation. (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi)
Militiamen loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ride on a tank on a street in Aden, Yemen, Thursday, March 19, 2015. A woman on the tank holds a representation of the old South Yemen flag that was used when southern Yemen was an independent state until 1990. Forces loyal to Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stormed the international airport in the southern port city of Aden on Thursday, triggering an intense, hours-long gunbattle with the forces of the current President Hadi that intensified a monthslong struggle for power threatening to fragment the nation. (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi)
AP10ThingsToSee - Supporters of Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the son of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, gather at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier during a demonstration demanding presidential elections be held and the younger Saleh run for the office, in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, March 10, 2015. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yemeni police cadets loyal to the Huthi militia which controls Sanaa march during a group funeral for the victims of last week's multiple suicide bombings that targeted Huthi mosques in the Yemeni capital, on March 25, 2015. The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group claimed responsibility for the March 20 attacks on two mosques in Sanaa that killed at least 142 people. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ADEN, YEMEN - MARCH 25: Members of Yemen's General People's Committee deploy at mechanized unit in Aden, Yemen on March 25, 2015. (Photo by Wael Shaif Thabet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Yemeni police cadets loyal to the Huthi militia which controls Sanaa march during a group funeral for the victims of last week's multiple suicide bombings that targeted Huthi mosques in the Yemeni capital, on March 25, 2015. The Islamic State (IS) jihadist group claimed responsibility for the March 20 attacks on two mosques in Sanaa that killed at least 142 people. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS (Photo credit should read MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images)
ADEN, YEMEN - MARCH 24: A group of Yemeni men who want to return to military stage a demonstration outside the Military Command in Aden, Yemen on March 24, 2015. (Photo by Wail Shaif Thabet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
In this photo taken on Friday, March 20, 2015, militiamen loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi ride on an army vehicle on a street in Aden, Yemen. The country's Shiite rebels issued a call to arms Saturday to battle forces loyal to the embattled President Hadi, as U.S. troops evacuated a southern air base over al-Qaida militants seizing a nearby city, authorities said. (AP Photo/Yassir Hassan)
A Yemeni man shows off a helmet and a flak jacket he looted from a base that belonged to police special forces loyal to ousted longtime autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as he stands on a street outside the base in Aden, Yemen, Thursday, March 19, 2015. Forces loyal to former President Saleh stormed the international airport in the southern port city of Aden on Thursday. Later, the troops and militiamen loyal to the current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi completely retook the airport. They then stormed the nearby base of the pro-Saleh police special forces. (AP Photo/Hamza Hendawi)
TAIZZ, YEMEN - MARCH 23: Police intervene to the demonstrators during a demonstration against Shiite Houthi movement that interfere to the country's government, in Taizz, Yemen on March 23, 2015. (Photo by Waddah Abdulqade Abdulqawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
SANAA, YEMEN - MARCH 22: A group of people hold banners as they march during a demonstration against Shiite Houthi movement that interfere to the country's government, at Gamal Abdul Nasser Street in Taizz, Yemen on March 22, 2015. (Photo by Waddah Abdulqade Abdulqawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
TAIZZ, YEMEN - MARCH 23: People hold flags and banners during a demonstration against Shiite Houthi movement that interfere to the country's government, in Taizz, Yemen on March 23, 2015. (Photo by Waddah Abdulqade Abdulqawi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Ground fighting and Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels killed nearly 100 people Wednesday.

The fighting in Yemen pits the Houthis and allied troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and loyalists of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is now based in Saudi Arabia. The rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, in September. In March, a Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition began launching airstrikes against the rebels and their allies.

The conflict has left 20 million Yemenis without access to safe drinking water and uprooted over one million people from their homes, Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.

A near-blockade of Yemen's ports has made it very difficult to deliver humanitarian aid. But the International Committee of the Red Cross said a ship carrying 1,000 tons of food and three large generators from Oman had docked in Yemen's Hodeida port on Wednesday.

"In view of the economic blockade that affects all the people in Yemen, the arrival of this emergency aid is a welcome development," said Antoine Grand, who heads the ICRC in Yemen. "The food and generators will make a difference for tens of thousands of people directly affected by the armed conflict."

While the ship's arrival was a rare piece of good news, fighting kicked off at dawn Wednesday in the cities of Ibb, Aden, Taiz, Marib, Dhale and the Houthi stronghold of Saada, killing nearly 100 people, including many civilians, Yemeni officials said. In Aden dozens of shells fell on densely populated neighborhoods, while artillery duels shook the city of Taiz.

The Houthi-controlled Interior Ministry said that some 20 civilians were killed Tuesday by Saudi-led air raids.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who mediated talks between the parties in Geneva last week, said that despite the deep divisions and failure to reach any agreement, "both sides showed signs of constructive engagement and there is an emerging common ground upon which we can build to achieve an eventual cease-fire coupled with the withdrawal of combatants."

He called for a humanitarian pause during the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan as a first step toward a sustainable cease-fire that would be monitored by "an international, impartial mechanism."

In efforts to reach a truce, Yemeni security officials said representatives of the southern separatist movement were meeting with the Houthis in the Omani capital, Muscat.

A delegation from the party of former president Saleh was also headed to Moscow to meet Russian officials, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the Omanis and others are trying to facilitate the U.N.-led process.

In the evening, the Yemeni officials said a bomb went off in front of offices of Houthi-controlled state news agency SABA in Sanaa, killing once soldier and leading the rebels to evacuate the building and cordon off the area.

And in the Hadramout region, a suspected U.S. drone strike hit a car near the city of Mukalla, killing at least five suspected al-Qaida fighters, they said.

---

Lederer reported from the United Nations.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners