NEW DELHI: The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that the Saudi-led coalition's military campaign in Yemen appeared to be responsible for a "disproportionate amount" of attacks on civilian areas.

Speaking at the UNSC’s first meeting on Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition began its campaign nine months ago, Hussein said he had "observed with extreme concern" heavy shelling from the ground and air in areas of Yemen with a high concentration of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals and schools. "I further call on the council to do everything within its power to help restrain the use of force by all parties and to urge all sides to abide by the basic principles of international humanitarian law," Hussein said.

The statement came as the warring parties agreed to a seven day ceasefire on December 15, which has repeatedly been violated. Ceasefire violations are the norm when it comes to Yemen, with repeat attempts invariably falling short.

The situation has prompted the UN to declare Yemen one of its highest-level humanitarian crises, estimating that more than 21 million people in Yemen need help, or about 80 percent of the population. "The potential ramifications of a failed state in Yemen would almost inevitably create safe havens for radical and confessional groups such as the so-called (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant)... This, in turn, could expand the conflict beyond Yemen's borders, potentially shattering regional stability,” Hussein said.

The Saudi led coalition is backed by the US and other western powers, who have been criticised by rights groups for providing the coalition with arms, weapons and other forms of aid. The coalition’s air strikes have devastated Yemen, hitting civilian targets like weddings and hospitals with terrifying regularity.

Saudi Arabia has also imposed a blockade on Yemen, which has compounded the crisis further. The country is amongst the poorest in the world, and the blockade has led to a famine-like conditions where food is exceedingly scarce. The blockade has also prevented deliveries of fuel, which inhibits the ability of Yemenis to travel, and has also contributed to an energy crisis where electricity is intermittent at best. Healthcare is another area of emergency concern, as hospitals, medical professionals and treatment are all in short supply.

Saudi Arabia has justified the blockade on the grounds that it is preventing the Houthi rebels from acquiring new weapon.

To make matters worse, the blockade is ratified by the UN. In mid-April, less than three weeks after the Saudi-led coalition launched its military campaign, the UNSC passed a resolution largely drafted by the Gulf countries that imposed a strict arms embargo on the Houthi leadership and their allies. The council approved the resolution, with all countries voting in favour of it except for Russia, which abstained.

The resolution was passed after weeks of closed door meetings between the Gulf countries and the Russians, where the Gulf nations convinced Russia to let go of its insistence to include text mandating "humanitarian pauses" in the coalition airstrikes, saying that such pauses would allow the Houthis to regroup. The final text leaves it to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon “to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and evacuation, including the establishment of humanitarian pauses, as appropriate, in coordination with the Government of Yemen.”

The cost, however, is being borne by the civilians of Yemen -- being pounded by airstrikes on one side and choked by the lack of food, supplies, energy and healthcare on the other.

Further, the conflict has led to a nine per cent increase in the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Yemen, which have reached 2.5 million, according to a recent United Nations-backed report on the issue.

“The ongoing conflict, damage to civilian infrastructure, and strain on already depleted resources have exacerbated an already precarious humanitarian situation,” Johannes van der Klaauw, the Representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Yemen said, highlighting the latest report of the Task Force on Population Movement (TFPM), which was led by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and partners.

The main needs of IDPS, according to the report, are food, water, sanitation and hygiene, and shelters. Most IDPs have lost their livelihoods and have sought shelter with relatives and friends, in schools, public and abandoned buildings and makeshift shelters or in the open with little to no protection.

Here too, the blockade is only making matters worse.