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UN chief warns half of Yemenis could face famine

(Xinhua)    08:48, November 03, 2018

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York, Nov. 2, 2018. Guterres said Friday that half of Yemenis could face famine, and urged immediate action to prevent the already dire famine situation from getting worse. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that half of Yemenis could face famine, and urged immediate action to prevent the already dire famine situation from getting worse.

"Without urgent action, up to 14 million people -- fully half the population -- could be at risk in the coming months," the UN chief told reporters.

Noting that "Yemen today stands on a precipice" and its humanitarian situation is "desperate," the secretary-general said that "we must do all we can to prevent the already dire conditions from deteriorating into the worst famine we have seen in decades."

He called for a halt to violence, immediately "around critical infrastructure and densely populated areas."

The UN chief said "imports of food, fuel and other essentials must be allowed to enter Yemen without restrictions. Roads must remain open, so life-saving goods can reach communities across the country everywhere."

He also called for support of the Yemeni economy, including "taking critical steps to stabilize the exchange rate and to pay salaries and pensions."

Then the secretary-general appealed for the international community to increase funding for humanitarian agencies to "expand their reach as necessary."

Welcoming recent announcements by Yemeni parties saying they were ready to "resume consultation," he said there was an "an opportunity for peace in Yemen. This building wave of momentum must be seized."

"It is essential that the Yemeni parties engage in good faith and without pre-conditions with my Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, to reach a negotiated political settlement to end the conflict," Guterres said. "The urgency of the humanitarian crisis leaves no room for complacency."

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