After Four Years of Isolation, Humanitarians Finally Reach Inaccessible Districts In Yemen

Yemen in the midst of a massive humanitarian crisis has finally gained access to the rebel-held Nihm district and after fours years of violence they found civilians caught within the zone surviving on the few resources remaining. The area is plagued by hunger, war and disease, the zone being described as “being on the frontline conflict area, which is very difficult to access… reports by NGOs working in Nihm indicated some populations where hostilities are more intense had no access to the food distribution point,” said Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

WFP reported its success distributing food for more than  5,000 people. Verhoosel says persistent negotiations have paid off. WFP’s collaboration with the Islamic Relief program has gained access inside battle-zones and can provide rations lasting up to two months. However, located at two food distribution points, continued violence has restricted accessibility for all civilians within the area. The district’s vicinity to the Saudi border has made it susceptible to ranged weapon attacks, it has remained under control under Ansar Allah since 2014.

The WFP has gained access to other isolated pockets, including the city of Dhuraimi, suffering from prolonged periods of insecurity, Verhoosel praised the combined efforts of both sides, stating that “this is the first humanitarian assistance to reach civilians in the city for a year.” Further praising increasing efforts in the region, stating that the “WFP was [originally] reaching 7 to 8 million people a month. Since JanuaryFebruary, we are reaching 10 million people a month”. WFP hopes to extend its help soon to 12 million people.

Regarding WFP efforts to work with both sides to the conflict, Verhoosel said “[that we] try to facilitate as much as possible not only the security situation but also of course the access [to food supplies].”  The positive relationship that is flourishing has enabled access to huge amounts of grain supplies found along the port city of Hudaydah. Positioned upon the frontlines, grain silos have been left untouched by both parties, estimates believe there is enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month. Armed conflict and aid work remain deeply intertwined, often manipulated by groups for strategic interests. UN secretary general, António Guterres seeks $4 billion in aid to prevent 14 million people, half of Yemen’s population from falling into famine; within hours of his announcement, $2.6 billion was pledged, interestingly from countries leading the fighting, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Organizations face massive challenges coordinating Yemen’s aid; although progress is being made, it is dwarfed in comparison to the billions spent funding the war.

Jonno McPike