(By Matteo Meloni)
NEW YORK, JANUARY 27 – The terrible conditions of the civilians and the tragic consequences for the Yemeni people who will risk a famine in 2017 were on the agenda on Thursday of a UN Security Council meeting when the escalation of the war in Yemen was discussed by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and by Stephen O’Brien, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.
Italy called for immediate cessation of hostility and humanitarian access, “indispensable elements to guarantee an improvement for local people’s conditions”, in the belief that an immediate ceasefire is the only way to improve Yemenis alarming and critical situation, followed by a political solution and the renewal of peace talks under the auspices of the United Nations.
The scenario in which the UN is working is precarious: armed hostilities continues in many areas, where civilians in Taiz suffer from “indiscriminate shelling in the city’s residential areas, with such attacks increasing in recent days”, the UN Special Envoy said. With the launch of operation ‘Golden Spear’ by the Yemeni Government and allied forces the western coastline faced the increasing of ground fighting and airstrikes.
Yemenis’ lives are at stake. The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien warned on the risk of famine for 2017 if there is no immediate action. Data show that the situation is worsening especially for children, with 2.2 million boys and girls acutely malnourished: a 63% increase since late 2015. In his remarks, O’Brien said that 14 million people are food insecure, half of them are severely food insecure. “Yemeni are forced to miss meals and eat food with poor nutritional value. Children are going to bed hungry every night”.
O’Brien said that in order to support the 2017 humanitarian response the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs needs $2 billion so to targeting 10 million of the most vulnerable people in Yemen. The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator asked then the Member States “to pledge generously at the forthcoming Yemen Pledging Conference in late March”.
The UN Special Envoy for Yemen met early in January with President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr and Foreign Minister Abdel Malik Mekhlafi. He has also spoken with senior officials from the Governments of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Qatar in Riyadh, Muscat and Doha. During these talks the Special Envoy affirmed that “Yemen’s political elites have a responsibility to shield people from further harm, protect their country’s future and commit to a peaceful settlement”. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed asked the Yemeni President “to act swiftly and engage constructively with the UN’s proposal for the sake of the country’s future”.
According to UN data, the war in Yemen caused the death of 10,000 people in two years. The United Nations Children’s Fund has recently renewed its call on the people involved in the country’s conflict to protect children and stop attacks on civilian structures. UNICEF says that since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015 nearly 1,400 children have been killed and at least 2,140 injured. Nearly 2,000 schools in the country have been damaged or destroyed, or are being used for military purposes. (@melonimatteo)