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UN: Yemen Faces a Triple Threat | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Children displaced by the war in northwestern Yemen pose for a photo near their makeshift huts on the pavement of a street in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah. [Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters]

New York – The United Nations has warned that Yemen was heading towards “total collapse”, stressing that the Yemeni people were facing a triple threat, represented by war, famine and the cholera outbreak.

Speaking during a Security Council briefing on the situation in the country, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed warned on Tuesday that the spread of fighting to the port city of Hodeidah would lead to a devastating loss of civilian life and infrastructure and threaten the entry of food and medical supplies through the port.

The UN envoy called for an urgent agreement between the warring sides in the country, but noted that “we are not close” to such an accord due to the failure of the key parties to reach a compromise.

While he said that he proposed an agreement to avoid military clashes in Hodeida, Ould Cheikh Ahmed stressed that such agreement should be negotiated in parallel with an arrangement that guarantees the resumption of salary payments nationally to all civil servants.

“An agreement on Hodeida and salaries should be just a first step towards a national cessation of hostilities and renewed discussion of a comprehensive agreement. Yet even serious negotiations of these first steps have been slow to start,” he said.

The UN envoy voiced his appreciation to Saudi Arabia and the World Bank for seeking to find the best means to boost Yemen’s economic recovery.

In remarks to the Council, Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien said that the Yemenis were being exposed to deprivation, disease and death “while the world watches”.

O’Brien blamed the international community for failing to resolve the Yemeni crisis.

He stressed that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen was “not an unforeseen or coincidental result of forces beyond our control” but a direct consequence of war.

He said it was “sadly, a result of inaction – whether due to inability or indifference – by the international community.”

O’Brien described Hodeidah’s port as “a lifeline for Yemen, being the primary point of entry for commercial and humanitarian imports into the country”.

“It is also the only port in Yemen that can handle fuel, and bulk and containerized cargo at scale,” he said, urging the member states to ensure that all efforts are made to keep the port open and operating.

“An attack on Hodeidah is not in the interest of any party, as it will directly and irrevocably drive the Yemeni population further into starvation and famine,” he said.