The Humanitarian Impact Of The Battle For Hodeidah

The three-year Yemeni Civil War took a turn for the worse last month when it moved to the port city of Hodeidah. The Battle for Hodeidah sees the Saudi-backed forces attempt to take a Houthi stronghold to stop the alleged firearm imports from Iran. The potential damage to the city and the danger to foreign imports could further exacerbate the current situation, stopping international aid organizations from accessing the area. Aljazeera reported that “electricity blackouts are common, food, medication, and water are scarce [and] the risk of falling ill with cholera is extremely high.” The United Nations has called the Yemeni Civil War “the worst humanitarian crisis.” Fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of Yemenis, killed over 2,000 children, mostly as a result of infectious disease, and forced 8.4 million to the verge of starvation.

For the more than 120,000 Hodeidah residents who have escaped to camps, like the one in neighbouring Lanij, and those residents who remain, even the basic resources are scarce. Executive Director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, spoke to media in Geneva after a brief visit to war-torn areas. “…Health facilities have been cut by more than half, 1,500 schools have been damaged by airstrikes and shelling” she said, recounting just some of the impacts of the war. When locals, who were living in makeshift tents, spoke to Aljazeera journalists limited supplies of food, water and medication were their main concerns. Without these basic necessities, many feared their children would not live much longer.

As war continues to escalate in the region, aid agencies will begin to withdraw support. Without these crucial imports, further civilian causalities will be seen as a result of uncontrolled infectious disease and malnutrition. This war has become incredibly complex, born out of a sense for political rights, but has become something much more. With each side gaining the support of external countries, the lives and security of those who call Yemen home, have become mere tokens in a political game. Foresaw “no justification for this carnage” and called peace negotiations “the only way forward.”

In recent years, the Hodeidah port has accounted for up to 70% of all imports into Yemen, including humanitarian aid, making its operation crucial to the survival of thousands. The Houthi organization has publicly stated their willingness to share the port with U.N. humanitarian forces. However, experts say that if security in the area declines support will be hampered. Earlier this month UNICEF delivered 50 tonnes of medical aid which could assist up to 250,000 Yemeni’s, but future shipments are in doubt. With over a million cases of cholera recorded by the end of 2017 and cases increasing due to poor living conditions, it is vital that medical aid reach those most in need.

The Battle for Hodeidah represents the need for peace negotiations between the exiled President’s forces and the Houthi’s. Peace deals have been struck, but violated, demonstrating the unwillingness for cooperation. While negotiations between forces and aid organizations promise hope for civilians in need, a political compromise is the only way to stop further death and destruction in the region.