UN agencies on Friday expressed alarm at intensified clashes in Yemen’s Marib region and said the increasing number of displaced people are on the verge of food insecurity.

“The International Organization for Migration is watching with growing alarm increasing numbers of people are displaced in Yemen adding to the already worrisome few food security concerns there,” IOM spokesman Paul Dillon said.

“Hostilities in Yemen’s Marib governate have led to the displacement of at least 9,000 people in recent weeks, bringing the total number of displacements in that part of the country to more than 117,000 people,” he said at a UN briefing hosted in Geneva.

Dillon said that humanitarian partners estimate that 385,000 people are at risk of further displacement if frontlines shift.

The fighting could impact hundreds of thousands of Marib city’s estimated 3 million people.

The latest epicenter of violence is Sirwah, a mountainous district in Marib governorate.

“Sirwah district alone hosts around 30,000 displaced people in 14 displacement sites, three of which were directly impacted by fighting in recent weeks,” said Dillon.

– Insecurity hinders aid delivery

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it is calling for a safe passage for the fleeing civilians, adding fighting parties must spare no effort to protect the population caught in the conflict and ease its impact on civilians.

“Insecurity is increasingly hindering the delivery of aid to civilians in Marib, with dire consequences for the most vulnerable among them,” UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov said.

“The latest clashes are just a few kilometers from Marib city, and people had little choice but to flee to relative safety in the urban areas.”

The existing sites for internally displaced people are already overcrowded, and the humanitarian response is overstretched.

“More than 800,000 displaced Yemenis have been taking refuge in this part of the country. Most of them have been sheltering there since the start of the conflict in 2015,” said Cheshirkov.

He said “unimpeded access” to affected areas must be granted to aid agencies so lifesaving assistance can be delivered in Marib and elsewhere in the county where the needs are dire.

The UNHCR official said that out of 4 million internally displaced people in Yemen, nearly 2.6 million “are just a step away from famine.”

Yemen has been engulfed by violence and instability since 2014, when Houthi rebels captured much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.

A Saudi-led coalition aimed at reinstating the Yemeni government has worsened the situation, causing one of the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crises with 233,000 people killed, nearly 80% or about 30 million needing humanitarian assistance and protection, and more than 13 million in danger of starving to death, according to UN estimates.

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