Boris Johnson: Yemen facing human catastrophe 'of biblical proportions'

  • Video report by ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar

Yemen is facing a humanitarian crisis of "biblical proportions" if a political solution to the country's civil war cannot be found, according to Boris Johnson.

The Foreign Secretary told ITV News the UK "urgently" wanted the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels to bring an end to the two-year conflict.

More than 10,000 civilians have been killed and three million people displaced so far across the Arab nation.

It is also suffering one of the worst recorded outbreaks of cholera, while hospitals are battling thousands of cases of diphtheria and starvation.

Mr Johnson's comments came after he convened a meeting in London with foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman to urge political agreement.

On Thursday Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military coalition against the Houthi rebels, said it had partially lifted a blockade of a port in the west of Yemen to allow supplies through.

Mr Johnson said he had been "very forceful" with his Saudi Arabian counterpart about the need for humanitarian assistance.

"We have impending in Yemen a humanitarian catastrophe that could be of biblical proportions," the Foreign Secretary said.

He continued: "There are huge numbers of people who are now facing starvation and a shortage of medical supplies.

"We have got to get the supplies flowing to the Yemeni people and get the political process started again so that we get a solution to this problem."

Cholera and diphtheria have both broken out. Credit: AP

Mr Johnson said Yemen, whose plight has been overshadowed by the civil war in Syria, was now the "number one impending human catastrophe."

"Fuel is running out, food is running out, cholera has broken out and there is risk of widespread transmission of that disease," he said.

Mr Johnson said it was essential that much needed supplies and medication reached all parts of Yemen.

He added: "But that will be of little use practically unless we can also deliver a long-term political solution.

"That is what we're working for now and why I brought people here together today."

Earlier this month a ballistic missile allegedly fired by Houthi rebels was shot down outside of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia believes rival Iran trains and helps arm Houthis.