Yemen faces 'catastrophic' conditions, says UN

After three years of war, the Middle East country faces a growing risk of famine and cholera, the UN has warned. Warring parties have continued a "destructive pattern of zero-sum politics."

UN aid operations chief John Ging on Tuesday said living conditions in Yemen are "catastrophic" following three years of conflict.

Ging said Yemen, considered the world's worst humanitarian crisis, faces a growing risk of famine and cholera.

More than one million people have been infected with cholera since April 2017, the UN official noted, adding that diphtheria was on the rise for the first time since 1982.

Read more: Yemen: Between conflict and collapse

On top of the public health crisis, more than 22 million people need food assistance, including 8.4 million who are on the verge of severe hunger, according to UN figures.

"People's lives have continued unraveling," said Ging. "Conflict has escalated since November driving an estimated 100,000 people from their homes."

'More poverty and destruction'

Outgoing UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that over the past two months, the conflict has escalated in several areas, including in the strategic port city of Aden and the Saudi-Yemen border.

"The parties have continued the destructive pattern of zero-sum politics which has led the country to plunge into more poverty and destruction," said Cheikh Ahmed.

Read more: Yemen's forgotten war: Locals tell their stories

More than 15,000 people have been killed and thousands more have been injured since 2015, when Saudi Arabia launched a military offensive against the Houthis and their allies aimed at supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Human rights group have accused both sides of atrocities, including targeting combatants in civilian areas.

"For nearly three years, Yemen's warring parties have committed war crimes with little fear that other governments will hold them to account," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, last month.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

War: The 'root cause' of Yemen's disasters

The UN has identified conflict as the "root cause" of Yemen's crises. More than 10,000 people have been killed since the conflict erupted in 2014 when Shiite Houthi rebels launched a campaign to capture the capital, Sanaa. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched a deadly campaign against the rebels, one that has been widely criticized by human rights groups for its high civilian death toll.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Fighting keeps food from the famished

The conflict has prevented humanitarian aid from reaching large parts of the civilian population, resulting in 60 percent of the country's 28 million people being classified as "food insecure." At least 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished, according to the UN World Food Program. UN chief Antonio Guterres has urged the Security Council to pressure warring parties to allow aid in.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Displacement: Converging crises

More than 2 million people have been displaced by conflict, including marginalized communities such as the "Muhammasheen," a minority tribe that originally migrated from Africa. Despite the civil war, many flee conflict in Somalia and head to Yemen, marking the convergence of two major migration crises in the Middle East nation. Yemen hosts more than 255,000 Somali refugees, according to UNHCR.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Cholera: A deadly epidemic

As of October 2017, the number of suspected cholera cases exceeded more than 750,000, and at least 2,135 people had died from the waterborne bacterial infection in Yemen in ten months, said the WHO. Although cholera can be easily treated, it can kill within hours when untreated. By October 2018, over 10,000 cases of cholera were being treated weekly.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Unsuspecting victims of the'war on terror'

In Yemen, violence goes beyond civil conflict: It is considered a strategic front in the war on terrorism. The country serves as the operational base for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, dubbed the "most dangerous" terrorist group before the rise of the "Islamic State." The US routinely uses drones to target al-Qaida leadership. However, civilians have often been killed in the operations.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Children's fate: Future marred by tragedy

In a country paralyzed by conflict, children are one of the most at-risk groups in Yemen. More than 11 million children require humanitarian aid, according to the UN humanitarian coordination agency. The country's education system is "on the brink of collapse," while children are dying of "preventable causes like malnutrition, diarrhea and respiratory tract infections," the agency said in October.

Yemen: An ever-worsening crisis

Peace: An elusive future

Despite several attempts at UN-backed peace talks, the conflict continues to rage on. Saudi Arabia has vowed to continue supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. On the other hand, Houthi rebels have demanded the formation of a unity government in order to move forward on a political solution. But neither side appears ready to compromise.

ls/aw (AP, AFP)