WASHINGTON – Living conditions in Yemen are “catastrophic” after three years of war, with a growing risk of famine and cholera still raging in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, a senior U.N. aid official said Tuesday.
The U.N. Security Council was meeting to discuss Yemen a day after Russia vetoed a British-drafted resolution that would have pressured Iran over the supply of missiles to Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
“After three years of conflict, conditions in Yemen are catastrophic,” John Ging, U.N. director of aid operations, told the council.
“People’s lives have continued unravelling. Conflict has escalated since November driving an estimated 100,000 people from their homes,” said Ging.
A record 22.2 million people are in need of food aid, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.
Cholera has infected 1.1 million people since April 2017 in the world’s worst outbreak, and diphtheria has returned to Yemen for the first time since 1982, said Ging.
A Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015 in a war that has killed thousands and left one of poorest countries in the Arab world on its knees.
Delivering a final report to the council, outgoing U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that in the last two months, there had been renewed large-scale escalation in several areas, including the Yemeni-Saudi border.
A report by a U.N. panel of experts in January found that ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis on Saudi Arabia were made in Iran, but Russia has questioned those findings.
“The parties have continued the destructive pattern of zero-sum politics which has led the country to plunge into more poverty and destruction,” said the envoy, who is stepping down after nearly three years as peace negotiator.
Cheikh Ahmed raised particular concern over the recruitment of thousands of child soldiers in the war, especially by the Houthi rebels.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this month appointed Martin Griffiths of Britain to replace Cheikh Ahmed and lead U.N. efforts to end the war in Yemen.