As Yemen Spirals Further into Chaos, UN Urges Humanitarian Relief

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As Yemen Spirals Further into Chaos, UN Urges Humanitarian Relief

7.5 million people estimated to need protection and assistance as conflict spreads

The United Nations on Friday launched an appeal for nearly $274 million in humanitarian aid from the international community to help Yemen over the next three months as airstrikes continued to bombard the war-torn country. (Photo: AFP)

The United Nations on Friday launched an appeal for nearly $274 million in humanitarian aid from the international community to help Yemen over the next three months as airstrikes continued to bombard the war-torn country.

Citing local sources, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that roughly 150,000 people have been displaced in the conflict—50 percent more than the UN previously estimated. A total of 7.5 million people need protection from the escalating turmoil, the agency added.

As the Guardian notes, before the war began, 61 percent of the country was already in need of humanitarian aid.

"The devastating conflict in Yemen takes place against the backdrop of an existing humanitarian crisis that was already one of the largest and most complex in the world," said UN humanitarian coordinator Johannes Van Der Klaauw. "Thousands of families have now fled their homes as a result of the fighting and airstrikes. Ordinary families are struggling to access health care, water, food and fuel—basic requirements for their survival."

Health facilities reported 767 deaths from March 19 to April 13, the UN said. That number is also likely to be underestimated. The UN continued:

The conflict is taking a significant toll on civilians: 731 people were killed and 2,754 injured from 19 March to 12 April 2015, including a large number of civilians; the number of food insecure people has increased from 10.6 million people to 12 million; at least 150,000 people have been displaced; food prices have risen by more than 40 percent in some locations; and fuel prices have quadrupled. Lack of fuel and electricity has triggered a breakdown in basic water and sanitation services.

The airstrike campaign—led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the U.S., Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and Morocco—has now affected 18 of Yemen's 22 provinces. Recent gains by some affiliated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have further destabilized eastern parts of the country, where tribal factions have appointed a governing council to administer the province of Hadramawt. Militants, meanwhile, have reportedly taken over an airport and oil facility in the provincial capital of Mukalla.

As Reuters reports:

Local politicians say the Council, now effectively the de facto ruling authority in the province, is separate from al Qaeda but includes some figures associated with al Qaeda in the past.

It negotiated with al Qaeda gunmen who appeared on the streets of Mukalla two weeks ago, and since then appears to have reached some kind of accommodation with them, although the nature of that relationship appears ambiguous.

An official in the province told Reuters: "A local committee (of tribesmen) was formed to administer Hadramawt, and this committee benefits al Qaeda."

Fighting in the south has also spread, particularly in Aden, where hospitals, schools, mosques, and airports have been damaged or destroyed, the UN said. There are also reports of serious violations of human rights.

The humanitarian appeal comes just days after the UN Security Council passed a resolution, drafted largely by those countries leading the assault, imposing an arms embargo on Houthi rebels but not on the military coalition, a move which analysts said amounts to an endorsement of the siege.

"You would hope the Security Council would take a balanced approach, not just go after the Houthis, who—regardless of what you think of what they've done—are clearly an internal party to the conflict," Just Foreign Policy director Robert Naiman told Common Dreams last week.

The Saudi-led coalition has also blocked almost all food and medical aid from entering Yemen, creating what critics call a "proxy war of aggression, waged by wealthy and autocratic governments at the expense of the Yemeni people."

The most urgent needs include medical supplies, safe drinking water, emergency shelter, and logistical support.

"The humanitarian community in Yemen continues to operate and deliver assistance including through Yemeni national staff and national partners," said Van Der Klaauw. "But to scale up assistance, we urgently need additional resources. I urge donors to act now to support the people of Yemen at this time of greatest need."

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