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U.N. aid chief urges ‘redoubled’ efforts in Yemen

U.N. aid chief Stephen O'Brien said the much-needed aid response in Yemen was 'woefully under-resourced'

Published: Updated:

The U.N. aid chief on Tuesday urged the Security Council to redouble efforts to secure a pause in fighting in Yemen, saying he would travel to the country within weeks.

"This conflict has brought appalling damage on an already suffering people," former British MP Stephen O'Brien told the Council in New York as the latest truce collapsed.

"We must redouble our efforts to secure a pause in the fighting which is adhered to by all parties, to reach all those in need with basic assistance, and urgently to give time and space to seek to reach a more durable ceasefire and a political solution."

O'Brien, who took up his position in late May, said he would travel to Yemen "in the coming weeks to see for myself the needs of the Yemeni people and the challenges faced."

Yemen's ambassador to the United Nations, Khaled Hussein Alyemany, said the visit would take place on August 9.

O'Brien told the Security Council that the much-needed aid response in Yemen was "woefully under-resourced."

So far, only 15 percent -- $241 million -- had been received out of the United Nations' $1.6 billion appeal.

"Additional resources are urgently needed -- now," he said.

Aid agencies developed a plan to reach three million people during the five-day truce with vital aid, including water, sanitation, food and life-saving healthcare.

"That plan is live and ready to go now -- if only we could get a pause to stick," said O'Brien.

Eighty percent of Yemen's population -- an estimated 21 million people -- are in need of aid and protection, and more than 10 million are struggling to obtain food and water, the U.N. says.

The latest truce, the third since the start of the conflict four months ago, shattered Tuesday with the resumption of Saudi-led air strikes and fighting in the south of the country.

The Saudi-led Arab coalition backing Yemen's government had unilaterally declared a truce beginning Monday to allow delivery of desperately needed relief supplies.

Pro-Iranian Shiite Houthi rebels seized vast swaths of the country since July 2014, triggering the Saudi-led intervention in March on behalf of exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The Saudi and Yemen ambassadors to the United Nations on Tuesday rejected responsibility for the collapse of the latest truce.

Yemen's ambassador urged the Security Council to put pressure on the Huthis to respect a U.N. resolution calling on the rebels to withdraw from territory they had seized.

"If that happens, the humanitarian and military situations will vastly improve overnight," said Saudi ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi.

The United Nations says more than 1,895 civilians have been killed in the fighting since March.