“Yemen today stands on a precipice. On the humanitarian side, the situation is desperate. We must do all we can to prevent the already dire conditions from deteriorating,” said the UN chief in a press conference on Friday, adding that the consequences of such a war would be “terrible” for the Yemeni nation.
Leading a coalition of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Yemen’s former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who resigned amid popular discontent and fled to the Arab kingdom.
Since the onset of the imposed war, the Yemeni army, backed by fighters of the country’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, has been defending the impoverished nation against the brutal aggression. The coalition, supported by the United States, is also resolute to crush the movement as another goal in its war on Yemen, which is teetering on the edge of famine.
More than three and a half years into the war, Saudi Arabia has achieved neither of its objectives. Riyadh had declared at the start of the invasion that the war would take no more than a couple of weeks.
According to a new report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of around 56,000 Yemenis.
The UN appeal came just a few days after the US, in a significant shift, exerted pressure on Riyadh, a close ally, to end the aggression against the Yemenis by calling for a truce and peace talks.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday that the so-called Saudi-led coalition “airstrikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen.” US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also called for an end to the nearly four-year conflict.
“We must do all we can to maximize the chances for success,” Guterres further said, calling for commercial and humanitarian imports of food, fuel and other essentials to be allowed into Yemen without restrictions.
Back in June, coalition forces, backed by armed militia loyal to Hadi, launched a full-scale offensive against the Houthi-held Hudaydah, which is currently under a tight siege imposed by the invaders and through whose docks over 70 percent of Yemen's imports used to pass.
The so-called liberation operation, however, failed to achieve its objective, which is overrunning the vital port and defeating Houthi fighters, backed by those from the Popular Committees.
“The international community has a real opportunity to halt the senseless cycle of violence and to prevent an imminent catastrophe,” Guterres said. “The time to act is now.”
Furthermore, he urged warring parties to allow roads to remain open so life-saving goods can reach communities across the impoverished country, while describing diplomacy as the only solution to the Yemen crisis.
Guterres also reiterated earlier warnings that 14 million Yemenis could be at risk of starvation.
On Wednesday, the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said that 1.8 million Yemeni children under the age of five were facing acute malnutrition, and 400,000 were affected by severe acute malnutrition.
The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
A number of Western countries, the United States and Britain in particular, are also accused of being complicit in the ongoing aggression as they supply the Riyadh regime with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence assistance.