A girl infected with cholera lies on the ground at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.
A girl infected with cholera lies on the ground at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen May 7, 2017.

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council Thursday urged the parties to the conflict in Yemen to work towards a peace settlement to prevent the country from slipping further into a humanitarian catastrophe.

In a lengthy statement agreed to by all 15 council members, it expressed deep concern about the recent outbreak of cholera and the growing possibility of famine.

“The Security Council emphasizes that the conflict in Yemen will only be resolved through the resumption of an inclusive political process, and calls upon all parties to the conflict to engage constructively and in good faith to overcome obstacles and find a peaceful solution,” council president Ambassador Sacha Llorentty of Bolivia said in reading the statement.

FILE - Sacha Sergio Llorentty Soliz, the permanent
Bolivia's Ambassador to the United Nations Sacha Llorentty addresses the Security Council during a meeting about the situation in the Middle East at United Nations headquarters in New York, July 22, 2014.

Peace efforts stalled

A Saudi-led coalition supporting President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi began its war in Yemen in March 2015, battling Iranian backed Shiite Houthi rebels who hold the capital, Sana'a.

U.N. efforts to find a peace agreement have stalled, with the secretary-general's special envoy reporting to the council two weeks ago that the key parties are still not ready to embrace the concessions necessary to reaching a comprehensive settlement.

U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick add
U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator Jamie McGoldrick addresses a news conference in Sanaa, Yemen, Dec. 18, 2016.

Hunger and disease

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis grows.

U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said Thursday that the number of suspected cholera cases has risen to more than 140,000  half of them children  and nearly 1,000 deaths.

Less than half of the country's medical facilities are functioning, making even basic treatment scarce.

The country also has become the world's largest food insecurity crisis, with more than 20 million people struggling daily to get enough to eat. Nearly 7 million are on the brink of famine, as food prices surge due to the coalition imposed blockade of the country's main ports. Add to that the nearly 1 million civil servants who have not been paid in months, and the purchasing power of scores of families has been severely reduced.

U.N. officials have repeatedly made the point that Yemen's looming famine is entirely manmade.

“Yemen is not facing a drought, like other countries do,” Auke Lootsma, the country director for the U.N. Development Program in Yemen told VOA. “Yemen is facing the direct consequences of a war that has also led to the situation of the current food insecurity.”

Shortage of funds

In its statement, the Security Council stressed the importance of keeping all of Yemen's ports functioning as a critical lifeline for humanitarian support and other essential supplies.

The U.N. has appealed for $2.1 billion to assist Yemenis this year, but has received less than one-third of that amount, threatening its ability to continue feeding some 4 million people each month beyond September. After that, humanitarian coordinator McGoldrick says, the prospect of famine will be a reality.

“The situation is very dramatic,” Lootsma added. “This war has to stop, because there is a direct link between the suffering that the Yemeni people are going through and the fact that this war continues to rage across the country.”

Special Project

More Coverage