The UN humanitarian chief said Monday that Yemen now has 42 percent more areas where people suffer severe food insecurity compared with figures from last year, citing a recent assessment.
Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said among the 333 Yemeni districts where the UN did the survey, 152 have a phase-four emergency of the food crisis system, known as the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), compared to 107 last year.
Altogether, some 20 million Yemeni people are hungry, accounting for 70 percent of the entire population and representing a 15-percent increase year on year, he said.
Alarmingly, about 250,000 Yemeni people have entered phase five of the IPC this year, he said, noting the number is 10 times larger than the people suffering the same food insecurity in South Sudan, the only other country that has a phase-five problem.
"We had never documented people in phase five in the food crisis in Yemen," said the under-secretary-general, adding these people are overwhelmingly concentrated in four districts including the port city of Hodeidah where the conflict is raging intensely.
Lowcock said the UN humanitarian operation is planning to reach 15 million Yemeni people or over half of the total population next year. "Among those, we plan to provide 12 million with food or money to buy food ... It compares with 8 million who we are reaching at the moment."
To meet the target, the UN aims to appeal for 4 billion U.S. dollars in humanitarian aid for Yemen and the secretary-general is expected to host a pledging conference in Geneva in late February, Lowcock said.
Yemen has been in civil war in the past three years pitting Houthi rebels against forces loyal to the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Saudi Arabia leads an Arab military coalition to support the Hadi government.
The Yemeni warring parties are currently holding peace talks in Sweden under the auspices of the UN.