NEW YORK • A quarter of Yemen's people are on the brink of famine, parents are marrying off young daughters so someone else can care for them and cholera cases are escalating, as United Nations officials work to avert a Saudi-led attack on a key port.
The UN has warned the Arab alliance fighting Houthi militia against any attempt to extend the two-year war to Hodeidah, a vital Red Sea aid delivery point where some 80 per cent of Yemen's food imports arrive.
"An attack on Hodeidah is not in the interest of any party, as it will directly and irrevocably drive the Yemeni population further into starvation and famine," UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien told the UN Security Council on Tuesday, urging all UN member states to help keep the port open and operating.
"Yemen (is now) the world's largest food security crisis with more than 17 million people who are food insecure, 6.8 million of whom are one step away from famine. Crisis is not coming... it is here today," he said.
The Saudi-led coalition intends to help Yemen's government retake all areas held by Iran-aligned Houthis, including Hodeidah port, but said it would ensure alternative entry routes for food and medicine.