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UN Gives Record-setting Emergency Aid Funds to Yemen


FILE - A girl displaced by the war in the northwestern areas of Yemen eats outside her family's makeshift hut on a street in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, Yemen, Dec. 25, 2017.

The United Nations says it is giving its largest emergency relief allocation ever, $50 million, to Yemen to help the more than 22 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Mark Lowcock, undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, said in a statement Friday that he remains "deeply concerned" by the deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Yemen. He said the situation has been made worse by recent increases in fighting and airstrikes.

Lowcock said for the "unfolding catastrophe" to be quelled, three things must happen: There must be a reduction in fighting, both on the ground and in terms of airstrikes; ports must remain open for transport of humanitarian supplies; and donor financing must come faster and in greater amounts.

He said many people in Yemen are now completely reliant on humanitarian aid to survive. He said the new funding will go toward the most vulnerable people in 27 districts at risk of famine, and to other areas where conflict has recently escalated.

Finally, Lowcock called for an end to fighting in Yemen, facilitated by a cease to hostilities and meaningful engagement with the United Nations to achieve "a lasting political settlement."

Earlier Friday, Yemeni Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi said the rebels in Yemen must immediately stop all crimes committed against politicians and civilians. He also said, in comments to Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat, that the rebels who seized the capital in 2014 must release all detainees, stop launching missiles, and allow humanitarian aid to reach civilians.

Ballistic missile

Also on Friday, Saudi Arabia said it intercepted a ballistic missile near the kingdom's border with Yemen, above the southwestern province of Najran.

Shiite rebels in Yemen, known as Houthis, have previously aimed missiles at Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of backing the Houthis.

The Houthi rebels seized Yemen's capital of Sanaa in 2014, forcing the country's internationally recognized president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, to temporarily flee to Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition responded in March 2015 by launching airstrikes against the Houthis on behalf of Hadi's government. The airstrikes have killed thousands of civilians and wiped out entire neighborhoods, including hospitals.

The conflict is now widely seen as a proxy war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia — which backs the government — and Iran — which backs the Houthi rebels.

Humanitarian organizations have repeatedly called attention to the effect the conflict has had on civilians in Yemen, where the United Nations says 3 million people have been forced from their homes.

The International Red Cross said there are one million suspected cases of cholera in Yemen, and more than 80 percent of Yemenis lack food, fuel, clean water and access to health care.