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UN: Saudi Blockade Could Drive Yemen to Massive Famine

  • VOA News

In this May 19, 2015 photo, Ashwaq stands outside her family's tent, at the Markaze refugee camp in Obock, northern Djibouti. Fleeing the war at home, thousands of Yemenis have made it across the Gulf of Aden to find refuge in Djibouti.

The United Nations has warned that unless a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition allows humanitarian aid access into Yemen, it will lead to “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims.”

Since Monday, all humanitarian operations to Yemen, including U.N. aid flights, have been blocked after Saudi Arabia forced every single air, land and sea port in the country closed. The move came in response to the interception of a missile fired toward the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on Saturday.

'There will be a famine'

Saudi Arabia justified the blockade, saying Houthi rebels were being supplied with weapons from Iran, and has accused Tehran of “direct military aggression.” But Iran denies arming the rebels, who have fought the coalition for more than two years.

United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock told reporters Wednesday, “I have told the council that unless those measures are lifted ... there will be a famine in Yemen.”

The country relies on imports for virtually everything civilians need to survive, but now neither food, fuel nor medicine can get in.

Guterres talks with Saudi Arabia

Lowcock said the U.N.’s World Food Program is feeding 7 million people a month in Yemen. “What we need is a winding down of the blockade ... so that we can save the lives of those people.”

He added that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had spoken with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir earlier on Wednesday and called for an immediate resumption of humanitarian access.

According to the U.N., more than 8,670 people, most of them civilians, have been killed and 49,960 injured in airstrikes and fighting on the ground since the coalition intervened in Yemen's civil war in March 2015.

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