The UN envoy to Yemen has warned of a growing humanitarian crisis in the country and also condemned recent al-Qaeda attacks in the country.

Jamal Benomar said on Wednesday that about three million people were in need of immediate assistance and urged international donors to help the Arab world's poorest country.

Up to 6.8 million Yemenis have been left without enough food during months of political turmoil that has allowed al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) to gain ground, he said.

"There is a growing humanitarian crisis in the country," Benomar told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council.

The UN humanitarian appeal for $446m for Yemen is only 15 per cent funded, he said.

Benomar said Yemen had the second-highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in the world and said that 500,000 children were likely to die from malnutrition or suffer life-long consequences this year if adequate support was not provided.

Al-Qaeda threat

Benomar's comments came as al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for a weekend assault on a military base in southern Yemen, which officials say left almost 200 soldiers dead.

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The attack was the deadliest the army has suffered in a nearly year-long campaign against the movement in the south.

The Security Council late on Wednesday issued a statement strongly condemning recent attacks.

"They expressed their deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the victims of these heinous acts and to their families, and to the people and Government of the Republic of Yemen,” the statement said.

Benomar said that Yemen's political crisis had "caused state authority to collapse in a number of areas around the country, benefiting al-Qaeda, of course, and this is going to be a major challenge in this new phase".

Yemen is currently undergoing a political transition under the new government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which took power last month after a year of protests against the long-time rule of Hadi's predecessor, Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Benomar said the first phase of the transition from Saleh to Hadi was complete, and that the process was now moving into the second phase in which a national dialogue conference must be organised and the constitution and electoral system reformed.

General elections must be organised before the end of the transition period in two years.

Source: Agencies