"Unprecedented response" needed for Yemen crisis: UN agency chiefs

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Yemen is facing the world's worst cholera outbreak. Photo: UNICEF

An "unprecedented response" from the international community is needed to save millions of lives across Yemen.

That's according to the heads of three UN agencies, who have just finished a three-day fact-finding mission in the war-torn country, which is suffering the largest ever cholera outbreak.

There have been around 400,000 suspected cases of the disease and nearly 1900 associated deaths.

Dianne Penn reports.

The heads of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and World Health Organization (WHO) described Yemen as the "world's largest humanitarian crisis", where vital health, water and sanitation facilities have been crippled by more than two years of conflict.

A Saudi-backed government coalition has been fighting Iranian-supported Houthi rebels for control of the country, leaving around 60 per cent of the country unsure where their next meal is coming from, the three agency chiefs said in a joint statement.

UNICEF's Anthony Lake; WFP's David Beasley and WHO head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus; said they has visited families "overcome with sorrow" for their loved ones, including hospitalized children "who can barely gather the strength to breathe".

In addition, more than 30,000 health workers haven't been paid in more than 10 months they said, but "many still report for duty".

The agencies said they were doing their best to pay incentives and stipends to the dedicated health workers, but the international community needed to "redouble its support for the people".

The statement said that there were hopeful signs despite the dire situation.

More than 99 per cent of people sick with suspected cholera who can access health services, are surviving, although an estimated 80 per cent of Yemen's children need humanitarian assistance.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

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