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UN fears Yemen violence is ‘spiralling out of control’

21 February 2020


Children stand in the rubble of a destroyed building in Sanaa, Yemen, last Friday

Children stand in the rubble of a destroyed building in Sanaa, Yemen, last Friday

THE reported killing of dozens of civilians in air strikes last weekend, closure of hospitals owing to fighting, and daily accounts of children being shot by snipers, are examples of the escalation of hostilities in Yemen, the UN heard this week.

The UN head of humanitarian affairs, Sir Mark Lowcock, told the Security Council on Tuesday that the country was enduring “an extremely worrying period”, which had “reversed the trend towards decreasing civilian casualties that we had seen in previous months”. Since January, 35,000 people had been displaced. “For months, I have called for a nationwide ceasefire,” he said. “This call is even more urgent today when the violence . . . is at very real risk of spiralling out of control.”

The UN has designated the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis; around 80 per cent of the population — 24 million people — rely on aid. In his briefing, Sir Mark referred to obstacles to the delivery of aid put up by both the government and the Houthi rebels. It was “difficult to know with certainty whether there are large pockets of unmet needs across the country”.

A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting against Houthi rebels since 2015. The rebels reported this week that at least 35 people, including 26 women and children, had been killed in coalition air strikes over the weekend, in retaliation for the shooting down of a coalition plane, Associated Press reports.

The Archdeacon in the Gulf, the Ven. Dr Bill Schwartz, said on Tuesday: “The situation is not improving at all, in spite of some upbeat focus of some media. There is little coverage of the unfortunately normal continuation of bombing of civilians and such.”

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