U.N. blames all sides in con­flict for im­ped­ing aid

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Mag­gie Michael

CAIRO — The re­gional chief of the U.N. chil­dren’s agency said Satur­day that Ye­meni au­thor­i­ties are mak­ing it dif­fi­cult to de­liver much-needed hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and warned that im­ped­ing re­lief ef­forts could plunge the coun­try into famine.

Geert Cap­pelaere told the As­so­ci­ated Press in an in­ter­view from Ye­men that re­cent U.S. calls for a cease-fire are im­per­a­tive to end­ing the nearly fouryear war, which pits a Saudi-led coali­tion against Iran-aligned rebels known as Houthis.

He vis­ited the Red Sea port city of Hodeida and the rebel-held cap­i­tal, Sanaa, over the past two days as clashes and air strikes in­ten­si­fied. He said both the in­ter­na­tion­al­lyrec­og­nized Ye­meni gov­ern­ment and Houthi rebels “are not en­abling us to do our work as fast as we should.”

Cap­pelaere said he can’t bring the best nu­tri­tion ex­perts to the coun­try be­cause of de­lays in grant­ing visas and aid agen­cies face bu­reau­cratic im­ped­i­ments that de­lay the im­por­ta­tion of sup­plies.

Most aid agen­cies op­er­ate in Houthi-held ar­eas where they face move­ment re­stric­tions. The rebels ma­nip­u­late aid dis­tri­bu­tion by pro­vid­ing lists of ben­e­fi­cia­ries and some­times di­vert aid to their sup­port­ers.

Cap­pelaere’s visit came shortly af­ter the United States called for the cease­fire within 30 days. He said the sit­u­a­tion is de­te­ri­o­rat­ing, with mil­lions un­able to meet their ba­sic needs.

Ye­men has been at war since March 2015, when Houthis oc­cu­pied north­ern Ye­men, forc­ing the gov­ern­ment into ex­ile. Since then, a Saudi-led coali­tion sup­port­ing the gov­ern­ment has block­aded the rebel-held north and waged a dev­as­tat­ing air cam­paign. The U.S. has sold bil­lions of dol­lars’ worth of arms to Saudi Ara­bia and pro­vides lo­gis­ti­cal and other sup­port to the coali­tion.

“An end to the con­flict is ... a much-needed step but it needs to be com­ple­mented with in­vest­ment and gov­er­nance of this coun­try that puts the in­ter­est of the peo­ple at the cen­ter and the in­ter­est of the chil­dren at the core of pol­i­tics,” Cap­pelaere said.

Three-quar­ters of Ye­men’s 29 mil­lion peo­ple are food in­se­cure, 1.8 mil­lion chil­dren suf­fer from mal­nu­tri­tion and 400,000 chil­dren un­der age 5 are at risk of death from star­va­tion.

Mag­gie Michael is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

Hani Mo­hammed / As­so­ci­ated Press

A woman holds a mal­nour­ished boy last month at the As­lam Health Cen­ter in Ha­j­jah, Ye­men.

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