U.N., Red Cross call for keeping Yemen aid lifeline open

Reuters GENEVA (Reuters) — The United Nations and Red Cross on Tuesday urged the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen to re-open an aid lifeline to bring imported food and medicine into the country.

It is estimated that 7 million people are facing famine there.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi movement in Yemen said on Monday it would close all air, land and sea ports to the Arabian Peninsula country to stem the flow of arms from Iran.

The Saudis and their allies say the Houthis get weapons from their arch-foe, Iran. Iran denies the charges and blames the conflict in Yemen on Riyadh.

The U.N. Security Council is due to meet on Wednesday, at the request of Sweden, to discuss the humanitarian situation in Yemen, diplomats said in New York.

“We call for all air and sea ports to remain open to ensure food, fuel and medicines can enter the country,” Jens Laerke of the U.N. Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs said in Geneva.

He said humanitarian operations are currently “blocked” because air and sea ports in Yemen are closed,

The Saudi-led coalition has told the world body to “inform all commercial vessels at Hodeidah and Saleef ports to leave”, Laerke said, referring to Red Sea ports controlled by the Houthis.

The price of fuel jumped 60 percent “overnight” in Yemen and the price of cooking gas doubled, he said. “This is an access problem of colossal dimensions right now.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) joined the call.

“Food, medicine and other essential supplies are critical for the survival of 27 million Yemenis already weakened by a conflict now in its third year,” Robert Mardini, ICRC regional director for the Near and Middle East, said in a statement.Speech

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