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UN: Yemen close to biggest famine world has seen in decades

SAUDI ARABIA must end its blockade of Yemen, the United Nations has demanded, warning that more than eight million people are on the brink of famine.

UN humanitarian co-ordinator Jamie McGoldrick called late on Monday for all parties “to fully facilitate sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access as required by international humanitarian law.”

He said about 8.4 million Yemenis are dependent on the UN for safe water, food, medicine and shelter and are just “a step away from famine.”

The situation has been worsened by the closure of all air, sea and land ports by the Saudi-led coalition, which has been waging a devastating air campaign, nominally against Houthi rebels, since March 2015.

The blockade has been in place since November 6 and international bodies have called for it to be lifted to allow much-needed humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people.

The Saudi bombing campaign has targeted Yemen’s infrastructure, including food and water facilities, and has been blamed for a growth in support for jihadists including Isis and al-Qaida.

The coalition has also bombed the port of Hudaidah, where most of the humanitarian aid was entering the country.

According to the UN, at least 10,000 civilians have been killed as a result of the conflict and more than 3 million people displaced.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed that the country is facing a massive cholera outbreak, particularly affecting children. it estimates that a million people will be affected by the end of the year.

UN humanitarian affairs spokesman Mark Lowcock said that millions could die in Yemen from hunger if the blockade continues, warning that it would eclipse recent famines in South Sudan and Somalia.

“It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims,” he said.

US President Donald Trump called for an end to the blockade last week, yet the US still provides military backing for the Saudi bombing campaign.

Mr Trump continued weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, signing a $110 billion (£82.5bn) deal in his trip to Riyadh in May. The US has also offered intelligence-sharing and refuelling capabilities for Saudi air bombing missions.

UN mediators have attempted to broker a peace deal between the Houthis and ousted president Abed Rabboh Mansour Hadi.

Mr Hadi is demanding that the Houthis disarm and give up control of the capital Sanaa. The Houthis want a national unity government in which they are included.

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