The UN and NGOs received warnings over the weekend for staff to evacuate Hodeida by Tuesday ahead of the offensive, affirming the humanitarian community’s worst fears for Yemen. The UN peace envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has already said that this attack would “take peace off the table in a single stroke,” and the UN has cited the worst case scenario: 250,000 dead, with hundreds of thousands more affected.
Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director Muhsin Siddiquey said, “It’s hard to imagine how life for the people of Yemen could get any more difficult, but an attack on Hodeida will bring more death, destruction and push vital resources like food, fuel and medicine even further out of reach. To avert catastrophe, we call on the international community, including the UN Security Council, to call for de-escalation and restraint, and to exert pressure and take action to ensure the parties keep Hodeida and Saleef ports open and uphold their obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilians.”
The people of Yemen have already had the lifelines of food, fuel and medicine blocked for years, but the offensive on Hodeida will massively escalate this humanitarian crisis while millions already are on the brink of famine. Oxfam is hearing from local NGOs that there has been a dramatic increase in families forced to leave their homes in the last couple of days. Truck drivers are too frightened to enter Hodeida to move vital food and supplies, and businesses are closing, leaving civilians in the war path without basic supplies. The fact that this attack would happen during Ramadan makes it even more difficult for families to prepare.
Siddiquey said, “Even with these warnings, this assault and escalation of the conflict is not a foregone conclusion – there is time for all parties to navigate a path to peace and save countless lives, and the international community must continue to stand up for this peace and the lives of the Yemeni people.”
The US has recently stated it will not participate in the battle for Hodeida and that it opposes military activity that will exacerbate the humanitarian situation. This was a stance taken to wipe its hands clean of the death toll that will surely follow this offensive, but the US must publicly and explicitly warn against this attack, with clear consequences for the UAE if it goes forward. This is a moment that will show if the US will step up and use its influence to save lives in Yemen, and the world is watching.