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UN: Yemen Economy is Collapsing        10/15 06:05


   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Yemen's economy is collapsing, its humanitarian 
crisis is worsening, and the conflict in the Arab world's poorest nation is 
growing more violent, the U.N.'s deputy humanitarian chief said Thursday.

   The grim remarks by Assistant Secretary-General Ramesh Rajasingham came 
during a briefing to the U.N. Security Council. More than 20 million Yemenis -- 
two-thirds of the population -- need humanitarian assistance, but aid agencies, 
he said, "are, once again, starting to run out of money."

   Aid agencies are now helping nearly 13 million people across the country, 
about 3 million more than just a few months ago, Rajasingham added. "Our best 
assessment is that this expansion has considerably pushed back the immediate 
risk of large-scale famine."

   But he warned that aid agencies don't have enough money to keep going at 
this scale and "in the coming weeks and months, up to 4 million people could 
see their food aid reduced" and "by the end of the year, that number could rise 
to 5 million people."

   "We are calling on everyone to do everything possible to sustain the 
momentum we've built over the last several months and keep famine at bay," he 

   Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi 
rebels took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of 
the country, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee to the 
south, then to Saudi Arabia.

   A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United 
States, to try restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power, and threw 
its support behind his government. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground 
fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned the 
world's worst humanitarian crisis. The U.S. has since suspended its direct 
involvement in the conflict.

   In early 2020, the Houthis launched an offensive in the mostly 
government-held Marib province which has cost the lives of thousands of young 
people and left thousands of displaced civilians living in constant fear of 
violence and having to move again.

   On Thursday, tribal leaders and Yemeni officials said that fighting over 
Marib in the last 24 hours killed at least 140 fighters on both sides. The 
clashes were taking place in the districts of Abdiya and al-Jubah, they said.

   At the briefing to the Security Council, Rajasingham said the Houthis 
"intensified their brutal offensive in Marib, taking more territory there and 
in neighboring parts of the southern province of Shabwa.

   He also pointed to clashes between rival armed groups earlier this month in 
the southern city of Aden -- where Hadi's government set up headquarters after 
the Houthis pushed them out of Sanaa and the north -- and continuing fighting, 
shelling and air strikes in northwest Saada and western Hajjah and Hodeida 
provinces "and along nearly 50 other front lines."

   In September, 235 civilians were killed or injured, the second-highest 
figure in two years, and fighting in Marib is taking "a particularly heavy 
civilian toll," with almost 10,000 people displaced in September, the 
second-highest figure in two years, Rajasingham said.

   The new U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, who took up the post 
last month, told the council that he has held meetings with government and 
Houthi officials, as well as key regional and international officials focused 
on how to move toward a political solution to restore peace in Yemen.

   "The gap in trust between warring parties is wide and growing," he said in a 
virtual briefing.

   Grundberg said he made clear that while progress should be made on urgent 
humanitarian and economic issues, urgent political talks without preconditions 
are essential to negotiate a settlement of the conflict.

   "Let us not fool ourselves, this will be a laborious and complicated task 
that will take time but it must take place," Grundberg said. "The past weeks 
have illustrated the tension between the pace of the war and the economic 
collapse on one hand, and the time needed to devise and consult on a feasible 
way forward, on the other."

   Rajasingham reiterated that Yemen's economic collapse "is driving most needs 
in the country -- including the risk of famine."

   Yemen imports almost everything, he said, and the Yemeni rial is trading 
around 1,270 rials to the dollar in Aden, nearly six times higher than before 
the war, and fewer goods are reaching the country's ports. Commercial food 
imports to the key ports of Hodeida and Saleef were 8% below last year's 
average in September, and "fuel imports were an alarming 64% lower," he said.

   He urged immediate steps to stem the country's economic collapse including 
injections of foreign exchange through the Central Bank which would quickly 
bring down prices, as they did in the past, as well as fully opening all ports, 
lifting import restrictions at Hodeida and Saleef, and paying civil servant 

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