Yemen could face the worst famine in the last century within the next three months if the Saudi-led coalition doesn't halt airstrikes targeting Houthi rebels, the United Nations warned Sunday.
According to the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator Lisa Grande, 12 to 13 million people are at risk of starvation as Yemen has suffered through a bloody civil war since 2015.
"I think many of us felt as we went into the 21st century that it was unthinkable that we could see a famine like we saw in Ethiopia, that we saw in Bengal, that we saw in parts of the Soviet Union – that was just unacceptable," she told the BBC.
The Saudi-led coalition has been locked in a stalemated war with the rebels since 2015. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
Further fueling the potential of famine, the country's unstable economy has doubled food prices in the last month as it collapses.
Save the Children CEO Helle Thorning-Schmidt said the conflict is gradually turning into a "war on children." According to statistics by UNICEF, every 10 minutes a child dies from a range of preventable diseases, malnutrition or diarrhea. Many of the medical centers in the country are closed and unable to operate due to shortages or attacks led by the Saudi coalition.
Thorning-Schmidt said the rise in attacks on various schools and hospitals across the country is cause for alarm, with medical teams unable to keep up with the influx of the injured.
The U.N. and humanitarian workers on Sunday condemned an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi rebels that reportedly killed at least 15 civilians near the port city of Hodeida.
Video footage released by the rebels, known as Houthis, showed a mangled minibus littered with groceries and a woman's hand bag, with rebel officials saying a day earlier that the airstrike in the Jebel Ras area had also wounded 20 others.
The Houthis said that five members of the same family were killed in the vehicle, adding that many women and children were among the casualties. Eyewitnesses who declined to be named for fear of their safety said that the attack appeared to target a rebel checkpoint in the area.
"The United Nations agencies working in Yemen unequivocally condemn the attack on civilians and extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims," said Lise Grande, the U.N.'s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.
"Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict are obliged to respect the principles of precaution, proportionality and distinction," said Grande. "Belligerents must do everything possible to protect civilians — not hurt, maim, injure or kill them," she added.
Hodeida, with its key port installations that bring in U.N. and other humanitarian aid, has become the center of Yemen's conflict, with ground troops allied to the coalition struggling to drive out the rebels controlling it.
The United Nations in Yemen says that since June, more than 170 people have been killed and at least 1,700 have been injured in Hodeida province, with over 425,000 people forced to flee their homes.
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