Commercial cargo ships carrying food, fuel and other vital supplies must be allowed to reach ports in Yemen which is threatened by famine, the UN Security Council said Thursday, according to an AFP report.
The Saudi-led coalition battling Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen has imposed maritime controls that UN diplomats have described as a blockade preventing imports from reaching Yemen.
"It's vital that we get commercial ships back in," UN aid chief Stephen O'Brien told reporters.
The 15-member council said in a unanimous statement that there was "an urgent need for ongoing commercial supplies to enter Yemen as a humanitarian imperative."
Yemen's imports have dropped to 15 percent of pre-crisis levels, in a country that is heavily dependent on goods from outside to survive, according to the AFP report.
More than 21 million people — 80 percent of Yemen's population — need humanitarian aid and one million have been displaced in the fighting between the Houthis and Saudi-backed troops.
Ten of Yemen’s 22 governorates are classified as being in food emergency — one step below famine, said O'Brien.
The fighting in Yemen pits the Houthis and allied troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and loyalists of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia after the rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, in September.
The Saudi Arabian-led alliance began launching airstrikes on the Houthi rebels on March 26, aimed at restoring Hadi.
It is believed that Iran is planning to use the Houthi rebels to take over Yemen and seize the key strategic port of Aden, which controls the entrance to the Red Sea and ultimately to the Israeli resort city of Eilat.
The Security Council in its statement urged world governments to dig deep in their pockets after only 10 percent of the latest UN appeal for Yemen of $1.6 billion was raised.
The council also endorsed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for a humanitarian pause despite the failure last week of peace talks in Geneva.