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World facing greatest crisis since WW2 – UN

The United Nations is warning that the world is facing its worst humanitarian crisis since the end of World War 2, with more than 20 million people facing starvation and famine in four countries.

The world body’s humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien called Friday for an urgent mobilization of funds – $4.4 billion by July – for northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen to “avert a catastrophe.”

“Otherwise, many people will predictably die from hunger, livelihoods will be lost, and political gains that have been hard-won over the last few years will be reversed,” O’Brien said in his stark warning to the UN Security Council.

“Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease. Children stunted and out of school. Livelihoods, futures, and hope will be lost.”

He called war-wracked Yemen “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” with two thirds of the population, or 18.8 million people – three million more than in January – in need of assistance and more than seven million with no regular access to food.

The conflict in Yemen has left more than 7,400 people dead and 40,000 wounded since an Arab-state coalition intervened on the government’s side against rebels in March 2015, according to UN figures.

In just the past two months alone, more than 48,000 people have fled fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country, according to O’Brien, as it grapples with a proxy war fought by archrivals Iran and Saudi Arabia.

During recent meetings, O’Brien said senior leaders in both parties agreed to provide continuous humanitarian access and respect international humanitarian law.

He noted that 4.9 million people received food assistance last month alone. “Yet all parties to the conflict are arbitrarily denying sustained humanitarian access and politicize aid,” he added.

“Already, the humanitarian suffering that we see in Yemen today is caused by the parties and proxies and if they don’t change their behavior now, they must be held accountable for the inevitable famine, unnecessary deaths, and associated amplification in suffering that will follow.”

O’Brien noted that despite assurances from all parties that he would obtain safe passage to the flashpoint city of Taiz, he was in fact denied access and came under gunfire after retreating to a short distance away.

A total of $2.1 billion are needed to reach 12 million people with life-saving assistance and protection in Yemen this year, according to O’Brien, who noted that just six percent of those funds have been received so far.

He announced that a ministerial-level pledging event for Yemen will take place in Geneva on April 25, to be chaired by UN chief Antonio Guterres.

During his visit last week to South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, O’Brien said he found a situation that is “worse than it has ever been.” (AFP)

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