Relaunch Of Saudi-led Offensive In Yemen Puts Millions At Risk

The Saudi Arabian coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen relaunched its offensive to reclaim the city of Hodeidah. The attack began in June this year, despite criticism from organizations like the UN and UNICEF that the battle would prevent millions from accessing humanitarian aid. The UN took significant efforts to establish peace talks toward the end of June after the United Arab Emirates announced they would pause military operations, which promptly stalled fighting. After the rebels neglected to show up to the negotiations scheduled for three days starting September 6, the coalition resumed its offensive on September 9.

The Houthi rebels have held the port city for nearly four years, and in that time, it has served as an important supply line to Sana’a, Yemen’s capital and base of operations for the Houthi. Brigadier Ali Al Tunaiji, commander of the Arab Coalition Task Force said that this military operation targets Hodeidah and aims to disrupt the supply line. Areas near the Red Sea, like Hodeidah, have been highly contested between the two belligerents, due to their inherent value as supply lines and as access to humanitarian aid.

The resumed confrontation in Hodeidah is a small piece of the Yemeni Civil War, ongoing since 2015 when the Houthis captured the capital city of Sana’a and took over the government. They subsequently declared a mobilization aiming to fully remove President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi from power. In response, the coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched a military operation to restore the original Yemeni government. Some of the other coalition nations include the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Egypt, with support from nations like the United States and the United Kingdom. The war has already caused heavy losses; the UN estimates that between 8,670–13,600 people have been killed in Yemen. In addition, the international aid group, Save the Children reported to the Associated Press that they believe over 50,000 children died in 2017 due to starvation.

CNN reports that 70% of humanitarian aid passes through Hodeidah. If the conflict continues, humanitarian efforts will be unable to go through Hodeidah and millions of Yemeni people would be left susceptible to starvation, disease, and other harmful conditions. The UN estimates that around 8.4 million people will be at risk of starvation due to resumed fighting. They also estimated that in a worst-case scenario the fighting alone could kill as many as 250,000 people.

Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) told Reuters early August that they fear another round of the ongoing cholera outbreak, due to a lack of vaccinations in the area. The nation has dealt with two earlier waves of cholera, and conditions are ripe for a third. The WHO estimated that between April 2017 and July 2018 there were around 1.1 million suspected cholera cases and almost 2,500 deaths attributed to the disease. During the ceasefire, health workers were able to vaccinate around half a million people, but there are still plenty have not received any care, and an outbreak at this time could be destructive.

All these conditions together make the situation in Yemen very grim, and the need for mass humanitarian involvement cannot be understated. If ensuring the lives of the Yemeni people is a priority, further strides toward establishing peace talks need to be taken.