Yemen being pushed ever closer to famine

By Oxfam

1,000 days of war and a crippling blockade is starving its people

Yemen is being pushed ever closer to famine after 1,000 days of a brutal war, exacerbated by a crippling blockade of its key northern ports which is starving its people of food, fuel and medicine Oxfam warned today.

Some 90 percent of Yemen’s food has to be imported and since a Saudi-led coalition imposed a blockade of the country’s key northern ports more than a month ago, only over a third of the food its people need is coming in. More than 8.4 million people are now at acute risk of famine.

The price of food has shot up by 28 per cent since early November 2017, making it increasingly unaffordable for poor families already hit by the collapse of the economy. Clean water supplies in towns and cities have been cut due to fuel shortages, which will have serious implications given that the country is suffering the world’s largest cholera epidemic. Hospitals are running out of medicines and diphtheria cases have risen. At least a million children are at risk of contracting the disease.

Scott Paul, Oxfam America Humanitarian Policy lead, said:
“Now for 1,000 days, the people of Yemen have been bombarded, violated and held hostage by countries and armed groups fighting a senseless war. The Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s strangulation of Yemen is on track to cause the largest famine and public health emergency in a generation.

“The US government has strongly objected, but continues to supply the coalition with sophisticated weapons and aerial refueling to extend their bombing campaigns. The strong language coming out of the White House and State Department must be urgently translated to action. Billions of dollars in arms sales must stop. Refueling must stop. And the US must use its influence at the UN Security Council to demand an end to the fighting, an end to the blockade, and a path to peace. If the coalition’s use of starvation as a weapon of war to put millions of civilians on death’s door does not cause the US to reverse its support for the coalition, “never again” is truly dead.”

Over the past 1,000 days:
· Nearly 5,500 civilians were killed
· Three million people were forced to flee their homes
· Nearly one million people are suspected of contracting cholera in the world’s worst outbreak ever recorded

Oxfam said all that all parties to the conflict bear responsibility for these huge levels of human suffering and all are responsible for violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law.

No fuel, essential for moving food and other vital goods around the country, has been allowed into the main ports since early November. The Ras Isa oil terminal, on Yemen’s west coast, has been closed since March 2017 following instructions from the Saudi-led coalition.

Around 80 percent of all of Yemen’s imports flow through Al-Hudaydah and Saleef ports, and about two-thirds of Yemen’s population live in the areas directly served by these ports. These ports handled around 85 per cent of all wheat grain imports in 2016.

At least six ships waiting to dock at the ports of Al-Hudaydah and Saleef port have turned back due to lengthy delays. Relief agencies and commercial importers face financial burdens due to the delays of ships anchoring outside of Al-Hudaydah in deep water; costs amounting to more than US$10,000 per ship per day.

There are worrying signs that there could be an imminent attack on Al-Hudaydah port. The port’s cargo handling infrastructure – cranes and warehouses – have been attacked before and has reduced its capacity to import goods. A lengthy battle over the port would risk shutting it down and will have a massive impact on the millions of people reliant on its imports.

The international agency said there would be no realistic alternative to supply in sufficient quantity the vital amounts of food, fuel and medicines if Al-Hudaydah was put out of action. 

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