TIME Yemen

U.N. Says Yemen on Brink of Famine

Mideast Yemen Food Crisis
Abeer Etefa—AP A mother gives water to her child in Sanaa, Yemen, on Aug. 18, 2015

Four out of 5 Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance

(CAIRO) — The war in Yemen has pushed the country to the brink of famine, with both commercial food imports and aid deliveries held up by the fighting and millions of hungry women and children facing possible starvation, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Ertharin Cousin, head of the U.N.’s World Food Program, said that while some food aid is flowing in, fighting around major ports is stalling deliveries, while reaching the country’s interior is proving difficult and donor funding is still falling short.

“If we do not receive the additional access that is required to meet the needs of those who are affected by this ongoing conflict, if we cannot support the commercial markets by ensuring that the ports are open and providing food to ensure that those who have resources can buy the food that is necessary, and if we do not see increased donor support, we are facing the perfect storm in Yemen,” she told reporters in Cairo.

Cousin was in Cairo following a three-day trip to Yemen. The WFP says all sides in the conflict must approve food deliveries.

U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien, who also just returned from Yemen, told the U.N. Security Council “the scale of human suffering is almost incomprehensible.”

He said he was shocked by what he saw: Four out of five Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, nearly 1.5 million people are internally displaced, and people were using cardboard for mattresses at a hospital where lights flickered, the blood bank had closed and there were no more examination gloves.

Yemen’s conflict pits Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and troops loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The humanitarian situation has steadily deteriorated since the fighting picked up in March, when Saudi Arabia launched a U.S.-backed coalition air campaign against Houthi forces and their allies, which control large swaths of the country, including the capital.

Saudi Arabia views the Houthis as a proxy of its arch rival, Shiite powerhouse Iran, and an attempt to expand its influence on the Arabian Peninsula. Iran supports the Houthis politically but denies arming them.

Pro-government forces pushed the rebels out of the southern port city of Aden last month and have made gains in the surrounding provinces. But their advance stalled on Tuesday after a rebel ambush killed dozens of fighters.

Since August, the food program says it has been able to make 16 deliveries via sea to Yemen, accounting for over 123,000 metric tons of food. But difficulties remain because of the fighting, which has caused port closures. The western port city of Hodeida was hit with airstrikes Tuesday night.

“We actually had a ship berthed in port that was not damaged but had not been given clearance to offload when that bombing attack occurred,” Cousin said. “We’re bringing in food from Hodeida that because of the conflict we can’t get to the south.

“We have right now, a ship sitting off the port of Aden that has materials in it that we could use in the south, and we’re still waiting for permission for that ship to come in,” she said, adding that in order to access the rest of the country, all the ports must be open.

Oxfam’s country director, Philippe Clerc, said only two humanitarian vessels have been able to dock and off-load at the Hodeida port in the past more than two weeks.

O’Brien, the U.N. humanitarian chief, called the airstrikes and shelling at Hodeidah a violation of international humanitarian law, saying they damaged “the main lifelines” for importing crucial food, medicine and fuel and could severely impact the entire country.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, needs to import food even in peacetime.

The WFP estimates that nearly 13 million people in Yemen lack proper access to food, with 6 million, or one in five of the country’s population, in urgent need of assistance. The organization is seeking financial support for a $320 million emergency operation program it expects to launch in September.

Other organizations also registered alarm on Wednesday over the desperate situation in Yemen.

The U.N.’s humanitarian office says to 4,500 people have been killed and a further 23,000 have been wounded to date, many of them civilians.

Human Rights Watch and 22 other human rights and humanitarian organizations said that the U.N.’s Human Rights Council should create a commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of war crimes by all parties since September 2014.

In Geneva, the head of the International Red Cross said: “Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years.”

___

Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report from the United Nations.

TIME Yemen

The Conflict In Yemen Has Killed Almost 400 Children, U.N. Says

Mideast Yemen
Abdulnasser Alseddik—AP In this April 26, 2015, file photo, a man carries a boy who was injured during a crossfire between tribal fighters and Shiite militia known as Houthis, in Taiz, Yemen

At least 1,950 civilians have been killed in the fighting

(UNITED NATIONS) — The conflict in Yemen has killed nearly 400 children since the end of March, and a similar number of children have been recruited by armed groups, according to a new report by the U.N. children’s agency. It warns that the fighting shows “no sign of a resolution.”

This is UNICEF’s first such alert on Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Shiite Houthi rebels since late March. Millions have been trapped in the conflict, and aid groups have warned that many people are on the brink of starvation.

“Basic services that children depend on have been decimated,” UNICEF says.

Its report says that as of a week ago, 398 children have been killed, 377 have been recruited to fight and 1.3 million have fled their homes. The report says the death toll could be much higher. Overall, the U.N. human rights office said Tuesday, at least 1,950 civilians have been killed in the fighting as of Friday.

“Abdul was 4 years old, and he was killed by a sniper,” the report quotes one local child, 7-year-old Nada Nussir as saying. “I do not want to die like him.”

Human rights groups have expressed concern that both sides are violating the laws of war and not doing enough to protect civilians. Amnesty International this week called on the U.N. to create a commission of inquiry to investigate alleged war crimes.

The U.N. and aid groups have called repeatedly for ways to get food, fuel, medicine and other supplies into Yemen, but tight restrictions imposed by the coalition on air and sea transport remain in place, while Yemen’s exiled government accuses the Houthis of hijacking aid.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, and its population relies on imports for about 90 percent of its supplies. Attempts at U.N.-brokered humanitarian pauses to bring in aid have failed.

The new UNICEF report says about 10 million children, or half of the country’s population, need urgent humanitarian assistance.

It also says more than half a million pregnant women in Yemen’s hardest-hit areas are at higher risk for birth or pregnancy complications because they can’t get to medical facilities.

Saudi Arabia months ago pledged to fully fund a $274 million emergency U.N. appeal for Yemen, but a UNICEF spokesman, Rajat Madhok, on Tuesday told The Associated Press that the agency has not received any money from the appeal. Discussions between the kingdom and the world body on the terms of the funding have long delayed the money.

TIME Yemen

A French Woman Kidnapped in Yemen Has Been Freed

Yemen French Hostage
Hani Mohammed—AP In this March 5, 2015, file photo, Yemeni activists hold a banner with pictures of kidnapped French Isabelle Prime, right, and her Yemeni colleague during a protest in Sanaa, Yemen

She is now in the hands of French authorities

(PARIS) — A French woman who was abducted in Yemen in February along with her translator has been freed and was on her way home on Friday.

Isabelle Prime, 31, had been working in Yemen for the World Bank for about a year when she was kidnapped.

She is now in the hands of French authorities and will return to her country Friday evening, according to a statement from French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who like the president thanked the government of Oman for its help.

Details of her release, including what group had been holding Prime, weren’t divulged Friday.

“The liberation of Isabelle Prime shows again that France never abandons its own,” Fabius said.

Prime was abducted in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, along with her Yemeni translator, who was released shortly afterward.

Earlier this year, a video surfaced showing Prime pleading for help. In the video, she appeared frail and anguished, and she urged the leaders of France and Yemen to allow her to return to France.

Chaos is rampant in impoverished Yemen, with pro-government forces battling Shiite rebels.

Oman has been a successful mediator in past hostage negotiations, including that for the release of American freelance journalist Casey Coombs, who had been held by Shiite Houthi rebels.

TIME Yemen

Yemen Crisis: 21 Million People Now in Urgent Need of Food, Humanitarian Aid

A Saudi-led blockade on maritime traffic has limited commercial goods from entering Yemen, forcing prices of food and fuel to skyrocket

The U.N. envoy to Yemen said Wednesday that the conflict-torn nation was “one step away from famine,” with nearly 80% of its population — 21 million people — in need of humanitarian aid.

Following a briefing of the bloc’s Security Council in New York, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said a cease-fire was a priority and called on all parties involved to broker a truce before the end of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan on July 17, reports Agence France-Presse. Peace talks between Yemen’s political parties, mediated by Ahmed, collapsed last week in the Swiss city of Geneva.

“While we pursue a sustainable long-term cessation of violence, I called on all the relevant parties to agree without delay to a humanitarian truce,” said Ahmed.

Yemen descended further into chaos in March when a Saudi-led coalition began bombing sorties to stop an advance by local Shi‘ite Houthi rebels. They want to restore the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh to power, having driven incumbent President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.

Over the past three months alone, thousands of people have been killed or injured by air strikes and ground fighting, and 1 million more have been displaced, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Due to a coalition blockade of maritime traffic, commercial goods including food and medical supplies are only trickling into the country. Fuel and food prices have therefore skyrocketed, escalating the humanitarian disaster for Yemen’s citizens.

According to a joint survey by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme, 6 million people in the country are slipping toward severe hunger and desperately need emergency food and lifesaving assistance. A further 6.5 million people are facing a food security “crisis.”

Yemen officials in the southern port city of Aden have called on international aid organizations to deliver more medical supplies as more than 4,000 people have contracted the mosquito-borne and sometimes fatal disease dengue fever, reports al-Jazeera.

TIME Yemen

Yemen al-Qaeda Leader Who Claimed Credit for Charlie Hebdo Attack Killed in Drone Strike

A senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader who claimed the group’s responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the murder of an American hostage during a botched raid in December has been killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, it was announced Thursday.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) announced the death of leader Nasr bin Ali al-Ansi and other operatives by a U.S. drone strike in a video, which was verified by security consulting firm and NBC News partner Flashpoint Intelligence.

Al-Ansi had appeared in several militant videos for the group, including one claiming responsibility for the Paris attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7, which left 12 people dead …

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Innovation

Why Read Hamlet When You Can Play It?

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Why read Hamlet when you can play an immersive time-traveling video game version instead?

By Jess Joho in Kill Screen

2. Here’s how to attract female engineers.

By Lina Nilsson in the New York Times

3. Everyone is losing in Yemen’s war.

By Adam Baron in Foreign Policy

4. Google and Facebook could save — or consume — journalism.

By Emily Bell in the Columbia Journalism Review

5. We know how to dramatically reduce teen pregnancies, but we don’t. Here’s why.

By Nora Caplan-Bricker in the National Journal

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Are We Breaking Up With Saudi Arabia?

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Is the special Saudi-U.S. relationship on the rocks?

By Ray Takeyh at the Council on Foreign Relations

2. Two-year degrees can really pay off.

By Liz Weston at Reuters

3. A self-contained urban farm, delivered in a box, could slash water use by 90 percent.

By Danny Crichton in TechCrunch

4. How a lake full of methane could power Rwanda and DR Congo.

By Jonathan W. Rosen in MIT Technology Review

5. Nope, we’re not going to live on crickets in the near-future.

By Brooke Borel in Popular Science

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. America loves to take sides in regional conflicts. In Yemen, we shouldn’t.

By Paul R. Pillar in the National Interest

2. Here’s why Congress should drop the ban on federal funds for needle exchanges. (It’s because they work.)

By Kevin Robert Frost at CNN

3. Cheap coal is a lie.

By Al Gore and David Blood in the Guardian

4. How small-batch distilling could save family farms.

By Andrew Amelinckx in Modern Farmer

5. Can you fix city management with data? Mike Bloomberg is betting $42 million you can.

By Jim Tankersley at the Washington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Iran

Iran Foreign Minister Urges Talks With West to Solve Crisis in Yemen

Smoke rises during an air strike on an army weapons depot on a mountain overlooking Yemen's capital Sanaa April 20, 2015.
Khaled Abdullah—Reuters Smoke rises during an air strike on an army weapons depot on a mountain overlooking Yemen's capital Sanaa April 20, 2015.

Mohammad Javad Zarif says U.S. and its allies must choose between "cooperation and confrontation"

Iran’s Foreign Minister has called for dialogue with the U.S. and Western allies to confront crises in its regional neighbors, saying civil war-torn Yemen would be a “good place to start.”

Mohammad Javad Zarif, who reached a framework agreement on his country’s nuclear program earlier this month with the U.S. and its negotiating partners, also tied the agreement to broader regional cooperation.

“To seal the anticipated nuclear deal, more political will is required,” he wrote in an op-ed article in the New York Times. “It is time for the United States and its Western allies to make the choice between cooperation and confrontation, between negotiations and grandstanding, and between agreement and coercion.”

Zarif, who was named this year as one of the TIME 100 most influential people in the world, said a forum for dialogue in the Sunni Persian Gulf states could help the traditional rivals to solve crises in Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria has seized swathes of territory, and in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has spearheaded airstrikes against the rebel Houthis, a Shi’ite group with ties to Iran. Iran denies allegations that it has armed the group and is calling for a ceasefire.

“If one were to begin serious discussion of the calamities the region faces, Yemen would be a good place to start,” Zarif wrote.

Underscoring the rising violence in Yemen, an airstrike Monday morning in Sana’a, the capital, set off an enormous explosion that shook the city and reportedly killed dozens of people.

Read more at the New York Times.

TIME Yemen

The U.N. Envoy to Yemen Has Quit

YEMEN-POLITICS-UNREST-SOUTH-DIALOGUE
MOHAMMED HUWAIS—AFP/Getty Images Jamal Benomar, UN envoy to Yemen, speaks during a press conference conference in Sanaa December 24, 2013.

Moroccan diplomat Jamal Benomar had lost the support of the Gulf countries in his mission

The U.N. envoy to Yemen has resigned, citing “an interest in moving on to another assignment.”

Jamal Benomar, who has served as U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy to the Middle Eastern country since 2012, reportedly threw in the towel due to lack of support from Gulf countries for his peacekeeping endeavors, reports the AFP.

“A successor shall be named in due course,” read a statement from the U.N. “Until that time and beyond, the United Nations will continue to spare no efforts to relaunch the peace process in order to get the political transition back on track.”

Benomar had already mentioned the possibility of resigning in an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, saying he had already expressed his desire to step down to the Secretary-General.

The conflict in Yemen is continuing to escalate as Shi‘ite Houthi rebels march on the country’s major port Aden after capturing the capital city of Sana‘a. The fighting has reportedly killed over 700 people and wounded more than 2,700 others.

The U.N. Security Council earlier this week adopted a resolution calling for the resumption of peace talks, even as coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia continued to carry out air strikes. The Saudi offensive has been criticized by other countries in the region, with Iran — whom it accuses of arming the Houthis — calling it “genocide.”

Iran’s neighbor Iraq also traded barbs with the Saudis on Wednesday, when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said there was “no logic to the operation at all in the first place.” The Saudi ambassador to the U.S. later said there was “no logic” to al-Abadi’s remarks, and denied reports that Yemeni civilians had been killed in some of the air strikes.

Benomar’s successor, meanwhile, has been tipped as Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who currently leads the U.N. Ebola mission in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.

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