An increasingly intense assault by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on the government-held city of Marib “must stop” amid spiraling humanitarian fallout, the UN’s envoy for the country warned Thursday.
Martin Griffiths told the Security Council that the assault risks putting millions of civilians at risk, particularly as it threatens to reach camps for individuals who have already been displaced during the seven-year conflict.
“The military situation is extremely tense. Indeed, I don’t think it’s been this tense in the time I’ve had the privilege to be engaged with Yemen,” he said. “The quest for territorial gain by force threatens all of the prospects in the peace process. The humanitarian situation is also worsening.”
Yemen is in the midst of what the UN describes as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with wide segments of the population combatting not just conflict but rampant food scarcity.
Mark Lowcock, the UN’s Humanitarian chief, warned that malnutrition rates in Yemen are at “record highs,” particularly among children who are on the brink of dying from starvation.
“Something like 400,000 children under the age of 5 is severely malnourished across the country. Those children are in their last weeks and months,” he said. “They are starving to death. Across Yemen, more than 16 million people are going hungry, including 5 million who are just one step away from famine.”
He described the ongoing fighting for Marib as “some of the heaviest of the war” with frontlines rapidly approaching civilian areas, sending thousands of people fleeing from a city that had hitherto been “relatively safe.”
Yemen’s Houthis, formally known as Ansar Allah, overran much of the country in 2014, including the capital Sanaa.
A Saudi-led coalition aimed at reinstating the Yemeni government has worsened the situation, causing one of the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crises with 233,000 people killed, and nearly 80% of the population needing humanitarian assistance and protection, according to UN estimates.