Fourteen million people are facing "an imminent and great big famine," said a top UN aid official.
United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock warned that half of Yemen's population are on the verge of famine and may be dependent on aid for survival.
"There is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen: Much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives," Lowcock said at the UN Security Council. Lowcock, a trained British economist, accused warring parties of violating international humanitarian law and preventing aid deliveries to the key Hodeidah port. As a country that imports roughly 90 percent of its food, the port is a lifeline for Yemen.
According to the latest estimates, 14 million people could face severe malnourishment, starvation and even death from epidemics fueled by famine.
"The immune systems of millions of people on survival support for years on end are now literally collapsing, making them — especially children and the elderly — more likely to succumb to malnutrition, cholera and other diseases," Lowcock said.
The UN aid chief said the only way to prevent widespread famine is by implementing a humanitarian ceasefire, allowing life-saving shipments of aid to enter the country, providing much-needed foreign exchange and ending the war.
"With so many lives at stake, we call upon the belligerents to seize this moment to engage fully and openly with the special envoy to end the conflict," Lowcock said. "I call on all stakeholders to do everything possible to avert catastrophe."