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UN calls for almost $274 million in urgent aid for Yemen

The United Nations has launched an appeal for hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, in a bid to help civilians caught in the escalating Yemen conflict. The bulk of the fund would be intended for supplying food.

According to UN estimates, some 7.5 million people in Yemen require humanitarian assistance as fighting between Houthi rebels, loyalists and al Qaeda militants grows more intense. Airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition have affected 18 of Yemen's 22 governorates, UN officials say.

On Friday, the United Nations launched an urgent appeal to the international community for $273.7 million (roughly 255 million euros) to "meet the life-saving and protection needs" of those affected.

"Thousands of families have now fled their homes as a result of the fighting and airstrikes. Ordinary families are struggling to access health care, water, food and fuel - basic requirements for their survival," UN Humanitarian Coordinator Johannes Van Der Klaauw said in a statement.

Some 150,000 people have been displaced in the conflict, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said, citing local sources. According to the agency, health facilities had reported 767 deaths from March 19 to April 13, although that number is almost certainly an underestimate.

In addition, clashes have 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.

"Public water services covering 1 million people are at serious risk of collapse," the UN said in the appeal.

Farmers with no crops

The world's poorest Arab country was struggling with a humanitarian crisis even before the violence escalated. However, aid workers have been facing

serious hurdles in their work

during recent months.

"The humanitarian community in Yemen continues to operate and deliver assistance including through Yemeni national staff and national partners," said Van Der Klaauw. "But to scale up assistance, we urgently need additional resources."

Out of the $273.7 million called for by the UN, some $144.5 million would be used for ensuring food security for 2.6 million people. An estimated 100,000 tons of food are needed each month.

"Farmers are missing an entire cropping cycle, which will further reduce food availability," the UN warned.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an

immediate ceasefire on Thursday

.

dj/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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