Pope Francis on Sunday called for urgent “respect” for a ceasefire accord in Yemen to allow humanitarian aid through in the conflict-weary country.
“I appeal to all parties concerned and to the international community to allow the urgent respect of established accords to ensure the distribution of food and to work for the good of the population,” said the pope.
“I am following the humanitarian crisis in Yemen with great concern,” he added.
The pope was speaking before embarking on a historic three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates, the first by a pope to the Arabian peninsula.
“The population is exhausted by the lengthy conflict and a great many children are suffering from hunger, but cannot access food depots.
“The cry of these children and their parents rises up to God,” he said calling on the gathering to pray for Yemen.
Yemen’s rebels have been locked in a war against government forces backed since 2015 by a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE.
The conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people at risk of starvation.
Some 10,000 people have been killed since 2015, according to the World Health Organization, although rights groups say the death toll could be five times higher
The first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula marks an effort to boost the Vatican’s outreach to Islam.
Pope Francis, who has made strengthening ties between the two largest religions a cornerstone of his papacy, was due to arrive in Abu Dhabi later Sunday.
He was to have talks with the UAE crown prince on Monday and hold an open-air mass for 135,0000 worshippers on Tuesday.