(RTTNews) - U.N. Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Yemen Jamal Benomar has said that the security situation in that Arab country has "deteriorated very dramatically."
The top United Nations official on Yemen was addressing a news conference after briefing the Security Council on Tuesday on the "very serious" situation inside the country as violent clashes continued between supporters and opponents of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, despite international efforts to promote a peaceful political transition.
Benomar told reporters that five or six provinces were out of government control. A large area in the north was controlled by al-Houthi rebels, and al-Qaeda militants had captured three cities and an important geographic area in the south, while capital Sanaa was divided between rival forces.
"The Yemeni people have suffered throughout this crisis," and it is high time that a "quick, peaceful and orderly transition can start as soon as possible," he said, and added that the Council meeting "is an expression of their anxiety" as they discuss what action they want to take.
Yemen is one of a handful of countries across Middle-East and North Africa where large numbers of civilians have risen up this year to call for greater democracy and freedoms. Several people have died in clashes and protests and U.N. officials have repeatedly warned about the humanitarian and human rights situation.
Benomar stressed that his work as Special Adviser was focused on using the good offices of the Secretary-General to support existing regional and international efforts to resolve the crisis.
Meanwhile, responding to a question at a news conference in the Danish capital Copenhagen, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said: "President Saleh should take immediately decisive political reforms so that people can live in a better world without fear of oppression and there must be full protection of human rights."
For her part, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos called on the the international community to take steps to tackle the humanitarian crisis in the impoverished Arab country, warning that inaction could lead to a repetition of the dire situation afflicting Somalia.
She said a third of the Yemeni people go to bed hungry. Hospitals and clinics are overcrowded or not working at all, access to safe water is becoming increasingly difficult, and tens of thousands of children are losing their education due to school closures.
"Making matters worse, insecurity has forced U.N. agencies and other humanitarian organizations to cut back their staff or leave," she said and warned that "If we don't act now, the situation" in Yemen, which is the poorest country in the region, "could become a catastrophe."
Separately, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova condemned the killing of two Yemeni journalists early this month, and called on the authorities to ensure the safety of media workers.