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WFP: More Funding, Access to Needy Are Critical in Yemen

FILE - An 8-year-old malnourished boy lies on a bed in the emergency ward of a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 27, 2016.

The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world. As the country's warring parties hold U.N.-mediated talks in Stockholm, the World Food Program (WFP) in Rome is calling for immediate access because millions of people need food.

More than 20 million people in a country with a population of over 29 million are expected to need humanitarian assistance next year. The WFP says a food security survey in October carried out by Yemeni and international experts found that more than 15 million people were in "crisis."

"This report is devastating," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. "It realizes our worst fears that people are starving to death in Yemen. They need our help and we are on the ground doing everything we can. In fact, that report is showing that the number of people on the brink of starvation is doubling. We plan to scale up to about 12 million people as fast as we can, depending upon the access and the money that we get from people around the world."

The U.N. agency has been reaching 7 million to 8 million people with food and nutritional supplements. Now, with the situation growing worse, the WFP is calling for unimpeded access around the country so it can increase the distribution of food and other vital supplies. The agency is also calling for an increase in funds.

The conflict in Yemen between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized government supported by a Saudi-led coalition has been going on for four years. More than 16,000 people have been killed, according to U.N. figures.

The humanitarian situation has deteriorated in recent months because of a widespread economic collapse. Violence has also been on the rise in the rebel-held port of Hodeida, which is considered crucial to bringing in for food and other supplies.