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UN council says Yemen conditions 'devastating' for civilians

By AFP - Mar 15,2018 - Last updated at Mar 15,2018

Marginalised children paint on mural on a wall during a campaign called 'Open Day of Art' in support of peace in the war-affected country, in the capital Sanaa, on Thursday (AFP photo)

UNITED NATIONS, United States — The UN Security Council warned on Thursday that conditions in war-torn Yemen are worsening and having a "devastating" impact on civilians, with 22.2 million now in need of humanitarian assistance.

The council cited indiscriminate attacks on densely populated areas, with large numbers of civilian casualties and damage to civilian structures.

"The Security Council expresses its grave concern at the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Yemen, and the devastating humanitarian impact of the conflict on civilians," it said in a statement.

The statement said that the “UN estimate of 22.2 million people now in need of humanitarian aid was 3.4 million more than last year”.

The British-drafted statement was the product of weeks of negotiations with Saudi Arabia, a leading protagonist in the conflict, and other countries, diplomats said.

The statement required the unanimous approval of the council's 15 members, unlike a resolution, which can be passed by a simple majority if it is not vetoed by one of its five permanent members.

It called on all parties to "respect and protect schools, medical facilities, and personnel".

Air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition have hit civilian areas. But the United Nations also has denounced the use of schools by combatants, often as arms depots.

The Security Council condemned “in the strongest possible terms” ballistic missile attacks in November and December on Saudi Arabia by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

The United States accuses Iran of supplying the missiles used in the attacks on Saudi Arabia, but the statement made no mention of Tehran.

Tehran has denied the accusations and Russia recently vetoed a US-drafted resolution that sought to condemn Iran for violating a UN arms embargo posed on Yemen.

“The Security Council calls on all member states to fully implement the arms embargo as required by the relevant Security Council resolutions,” he statement said.

As it has for months with little success, the council renewed a call for aid organisations to be given free access to the country, notably through its ports and airports.

An estimated $2.96 billion in aid is needed this year to meet the country’s needs.

A donor’s conference is expected to be held soon in Geneva, and the council encouraged member states to contribute.

In the statement, the council acknowledged “the pledge made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to contribute nearly $1 billion to the UN appeal”.

The two countries entered the war in March 2015 in support of the internationally recognised government after it was driven from the capital Sanaa by Houthi rebels.

“The members of the Security Council reaffirm their strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Yemen,” the statement said.

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