U.N. sets top-level aid emergency in Yemen

More than 21.1 million people are in need of aid, with 13 million facing food shortages

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The United Nations on Wednesday declared the situation in Yemen a level-3 humanitarian emergency, the highest on its scale, and urged a step- up in urgently-needed international aid for the war-torn country.

"All agencies agreed to declare the level three for a period of six months," U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq, said, according to Agence France-Presse.

More than 21.1 million people - over 80 percent of Yemen's population - are in need of aid, with 13 million facing food shortages.

Access to water has become difficult for 9.4 million people, according to the U.N.

Ten of Yemen's 22 governorates are classified as food emergencies which is one step below a famine, according to the U.N.’s classification sheme.

Under the emergency plan, the United Nations will try to reach 11.7 million people in Yemen who are the most in need.

"The health system is facing imminent collapse with the closure of at least 160 health facilities due to insecurity, lack of fuel and supplies," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly called for a humanitarian ceasefire to allow badly-needed aid to be delivered to civilians suffering from the air war and the rebel offensives.

Yemen slid deeper into turmoil when the Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes in late March to stop an advance by the Iran-backed Houthi militias who drove Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi into exile.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are demanding that the Houthis pull back from territory seized in their offensive and that Hadi be restored to full power.

A week of U.N.-brokered talks in Geneva earlier this month failed to narrow differences.