4 mn people needing food aid in Yemen next year: UN
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, already the world's worst, will deteriorate in 2019, the UN said Tuesday, warning that the number of people needing food aid is set to jump by four million.
The grim forecast for the embattled country came as the United Nations humanitarian office OCHA released its projected needs assessments for next year.
"The country with the biggest problem in 2019 is going to be Yemen," OCHA chief Mark Lowcock told reporters in Geneva.
He said that in 2017, the UN was providing food assistance to three million people a month. That figure rose to eight million per month this year and is expected to hit 12 million in 2019, Lowcock added.
The crisis in Yemen spiralled after a Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive to support the government against Iran-backed Huthi rebels in March of 2015.
The situation has worsened in recent months due to a broad economic collapse and rising violence in the rebel-held port of Hodeida, a crucial import hub for food and other basic supplies.
Lowcock said the UN is asking for USD 4 billion (3.5 billion euros) to help to suffer Yemenis next year. Overall, 24 million people in Yemen -- roughly 75 per cent of the population -- will need humanitarian assistance in 2019.
Lowcock noted that the government will also need additional budget support from other countries to pay salaries and pensions in order to contain wider suffering.
He indicated that some of Yemen's allies in the Gulf, notably Saudi Arabia have committed to continue helping finance the government.
The OCHA chief stressed however that the outlook for Yemen could improve if progress is made at UN-brokered peace talks, set to begin in Sweden this month.
If the talks show results, "it is possible that we could find by the second half of the year that the extreme edge could get taken off the suffering of those people who have no form of income," Lowcock said, while noting that diplomatic gains were difficult to predict.
"The appeal we are making is based on our assessment of what the situation will actually be, rather than wishful thinking about what we would all like it to be," he added.
(With inputs from agencies.)