Since 5 November 2017, the Saudi Coalition has prevented the flow of food, medicine and humanitarian aid offloaded at Yemen’s sea ports, and has blocked air services to the Yemeni cities of Sana and Aden. These actions were deemed necessary by Saudi Arabia after the Iranian supported Houthi rebels threatened Riyadh with a ballistic missile. However, as Yemeni civilians have starved, died and suffered over the last the month, the global reactions have been harsh, unrelenting and concern stricken.
The obstruction of humanitarian aid and use of famine are recognised as war crimes, and the world has taken notice. Earlier this month, United Nations official Mark Lockwood warned Security Council Diplomats, that these actions could result in Yemen suffering “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims.” According to the international relief group Save the Children, the outbreak of Cholera has affected at least 900,000 Yemenis. They estimate that around seven million civilians are on the brink of famine and starvation, with almost 400,000 Yemeni children in desperate need of treatment for severe malnutrition. Aid agencies and non-government organisations have further commented that the dire humanitarian crisis in Yemen could fast become a ‘nightmare scenario’ if the Saudi Coalition does not ease the sea and air blockages.
Impending international pressure and Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to be a greater geopolitical player has forced them to open their ears to what the world is saying. On Wednesday, the Saudi regime confirmed that it would re-open Yemen’s Red Sea Port and the international airport in Sana so that humanitarian aid could again flow in to the war torn regions. Although this is a positive step, whether the Saudi Coalition follows through will be tested in the weeks to come. For now, many remain hopeful that they will provide long-lasting reprieve for a nation struggling to survive.
The throe of civil war has impacted the Yemeni population since 2015. From the onset of the conflict, the Saudi regime opposed the Shiite Houthi rebels and intervened in favour of the nation’s former exiled Sunni leadership. They accused their longstanding rival, Iran, of supporting and helping the Houthi rebels. The Saudi forces intercepted the missile set for Riyadh and blame Iran for supplying the Houthis with the weapon which sparked the humanitarian blockages in Yemen.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the United States has provided the Saudi campaign with intelligence and logistical support. However, the recent actions have sparked criticism from even their most powerful ally. On Monday, the United States Congress passed a resolution condemning the targeting of Yemeni civilians. They are calling for key parties to “increase efforts to adopt all necessary and appropriate measures to prevent civilian casualties and increase humanitarian access.” The vote serves as a warning to Saudi Arabia which intends to expand their regional influence. Despite this, the Trump administration has been criticised for their inaction and unfazed attitude towards the crisis. Their close relations with Saudi Arabia provide the opportunity to encourage the Saudi regime to work toward a day where Yemeni civilians are free from conflict, and yet nothing has been said or done.
Regardless of the Trump administration’s turning of the proverbial ‘blind eye’, other American lawmakers are less tolerant towards the outright violations of international law and basic humanity. The only way to the end the hell that is the Yemeni civilian’s reality, is for Congress, the United Nations and the international community to continue pressing all parties for a political and peaceful solution, that will end conflict and suffering in the region once and for all.
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