The United Nations on Friday approved $50 million (Rs 317 crore) in emergency aid for Yemen, as it said fighting on the ground and airstrikes in the country had “greatly intensified” in recent weeks, pushing over 8 million Yemenis “a step away from famine”. The amount sanctioned is the “largest-ever emergency relief allocation”, the UN said.

The “humanitarian catastrophe” in the war-torn West Asian nation is being made worse by the fresh increase in conflict, the UN said in a release.

“These funds will help to save lives,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock. The funding, he said, would improve the aid reaching “some 22 million people” in Yemen.

Lowcock said three things were needed to limit the damage: a reduction in fighting and airstrikes, opening of all ports, and more generous donations.

Yemen imports about 90% of its staple food and nearly all its fuel and medicines, he said. When the Saudi Arabia-led coalition blocked aid from entering the country in November, Lowcock had warned that millions could die in the “largest famine the world has seen for many decades”.

Starvation and a cholera outbreak has worsened the situation in Yemen, which has been in a state of war for over two and a half years. Over seven million people are in need of food assistance.