The United Nations launched an appeal on Friday for almost $275 million to aid 7.5 million people in Yemen over the next three months, as fighting intensified in the south and as air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition pounded 18 of Yemen's 22 provinces.
About 150,000 people have been displaced, 50 percent more than the previous U.N. estimate, the U.N. humanitarian agency OCHA said, citing local sources. The agency said health facilities had reported 767 deaths from March 19 — when the power grab by Shia Houthi rebels escalated — to April 13.
“Thousands of families have now fled their homes as a result of the fighting and air strikes,” the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, said in a statement. “Ordinary families are struggling to access health care, water, food and fuel — basic requirements for their survival.”
The U.N. plea comes as Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday called for an immediate cease-fire in Yemen. A Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes three weeks ago aimed at driving back the Houthi rebels whose sweeping advance forced President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee abroad.
Yemen “is in flames,” Ban told reporters in Washington. “I am calling for an immediate cease-fire in Yemen by all parties.”
The Saudi campaign has turned Yemen into a new regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which has backed the Houthis, though Tehran denies aiding the rebels militarily.
The fighting had destroyed, damaged or disrupted at least five hospitals, 15 schools, Yemen's three main airports, two bridges, two factories and four mosques, as well as markets, power stations and water and sanitation facilities, OCHA said.
“Public water services covering 1 million people are at serious risk of collapse,” the U.N. appeal document said. “Hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties, including people who have been direct victims of violence and those suffering severe burns from explosions.”
Even before the current conflict, Yemen was in a large-scale humanitarian crisis, with 15.9 million people, 61 percent of the population, estimated to require some kind of humanitarian aid.
The U.N. calculates that it needs $273.7 million to provide what Yemen needs. The largest part of that request — $144.5 million — aims to ensure food security for 2.6 million people.
Yemen already had 10.5 million people classified by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) as “food insecure” in December 2014. That number has now risen to 12 million and is expected to rise further as the fighting continues.
An estimated 100,000 tons of food are needed each month, but current WFP stocks are limited to 37,000 tons, the appeal document said.
“Humanitarian food stocks in-country are insufficient to meet growing needs, and the dramatic decline in commercial imports is threatening the wider food supply,” it said. “Farmers are missing an entire cropping cycle, which will further reduce food availability.”