UN grapples with Yemen crisis

The UN Security Council on Tuesday discussed the growing death toll in Yemen from protests against the country’s president amid growing calls for a resolution on the crisis.

The talks were held as tens of thousands of people staged a rally in the Yemeni capital calling for Security Council action, while the UN humanitarian chief warned that growing threats had forced aid agencies to withdraw staff.

UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, briefed a closed session of the 15-nation council on efforts to end strife which erupted in January and has since cost hundreds of lives.

The Gulf Cooperation Council has proposed a peace plan under which President Ali Abdullah Saleh would hand over power to a transitional administration. But Saleh, who has ruled for 33 years, has refused to sign the deal.

Draft resolution
Britain and other European nations are drawing up a draft UN resolution which could be presented to the Security Council in coming days.

“We want the council to be active and to demand President Saleh sign and endorse, finally, the transition that was proposed by the GCC,” said Germany’s UN envoy Peter Wittig. “It is high time that we act.”

European diplomats said work on the resolution would be stepped up after Benomar’s briefing.

The Security Council agreed a statement last month which stressed the GCC peace initiative. A resolution would have much greater diplomatic weight to pressure Saleh.

UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos warned meanwhile that growing “insecurity has forced UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations to cut back their staff or leave”.

‘Daily struggle for survival’
“Accurate information on what is happening is becoming increasingly difficult to gather,” she said.

Amos said that conflict, added to poverty and drought mean had led to a “daily struggle for survival for millions of people”.

About 100 000 in Yemen have been displaced by recent fighting in the south and 300 000 displaced by previous conflict in the north, according to the UN.

“Every night, a third of the Yemeni people go to bed hungry. In some parts of the country, one in three children are malnourished — among the highest malnutrition levels in the world,” Amos said in a statement.

“Hospitals and clinics are overcrowded or not working at all, and access to safe water is becoming increasingly difficult,” she said. — AFP

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