UN Requests Access To Yemen To Assist Victims Of Starvation

One of the worst consequences of the brutal three-year war in Yemen is its effect on the civilians who are slowly but surely starving to death.

The United Nations Children’s Fund has requested that the Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition allow humanitarian aid to be delivered safely to those in need amongst their fighting. However instead of acknowledging UNICEF’s report that estimates the imminent starvation of 400,000 children, the Saudi and United Arab Emirates alliance has chosen to continue its offensive against the Houthi-controlled city of Hodeidah, bringing in even more troops.

Over the past six months the conflict in Yemen has only worsened, and many officials have noted the doomsday conditions that the nation has been thrown into. The head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Mark Lowcock, told Al Jazeera that Yemen “looks like the apocalypse.”

“Unless the situation changes, we’re going to have the world’s worst humanitarian crisis for 50 years,” Lowcock said.

Bhanu Bhatnagar, a spokesperson for Save the Children, said that the heavy bombing breaks up families and blocks people from accessing clinical treatment.  “The hunger crisis in Yemen shows no sign of fading as long as the fighting persists.”

Hodeidah resident Baseem al-Janani echoed the fear of the Yemeni people, telling The Guardian, “Many people here are too poor to escape, fuel is too expensive. We are stuck, always waiting, always afraid.”

It is nearly impossible to look upon videos and pictures of impoverished children and babies in Yemen, one of the poorest Arab countries, and not be immediately compelled to do everything within one’s power to help them. Mothers and fathers are watching their children waste away before their own eyes, and yet the conflict between Saudi, Houthi and al-Quedan forces is drawing no further to a close.

While President Hadi hides away, his people are perishing by the thousands, and the rebel group in control have no regard for anyone, and are only concerned with taking control of Yemen. The responsibility is on other countries to intervene, as it seems that Saudi Arabia isn’t prepared to do anything but expend more of its military and fight until the war’s bitter end.

Since the war began in early 2015, more than 10,000 have been killed, and over 50,000 have been injured according to reports by the UN. An astounding 22 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance (half of these in need of immediate help in order to survive), and 18 million don’t know when they will next get food. Thus, approximately 8.4 million civilians are at risk of starving to death.

The starting point for the power struggle can be traced back to the forced removal of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and appointment of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2011. According to BBC News, many didn’t approve of the way President Hadi seemed unable to deal with attacks by the southern separatist movement al-Qaeda, corruption, or food insecurity in Yemen. Plus, a large portion of the military remained loyal to Saleh. So without the full support of his military when Houthi forces, comprised of the Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, attacked in an attempt to take over the country, Hadi was forced to flee, and the country fell into utter chaos.

In recent months, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates coalition-backed troops, who are in support of Hadi, have begun in earnest their attack on the rebel-held city of Hodeidah. They hope to reclaim the lifeline city of Yemen, that holds 90% of the country’s imported food, from the Houthis. The port has been blockaded since the coalition became part of the conflict, in an attempt to drive the Houthis out.

However this decision on behalf of the coalition to cease the flow of goods and people entering and exiting the city has directly caused the famine that threatens the lives of Yemen’s population of 28 million. Since Hodeidah holds the majority of the country’s resources, the decreased supply throughout the rest of the country and increased demand led to exponential price hikes, making food at ordinary grocery stores unaffordable.

Almost 200,000 children under the age of five within Hodeidah are dying of severe acute malnutrition. And the city’s 600,000 residents live in fear of what an all-out combative will look like with so many civilian lives in the crossfire. 

The Saudi-led coalition’s first duty is to the people of Yemen, not showing off their power and ability to end the war. There are millions in danger of death and in desperate need of help from the UN and UNICEF. Their health should be the priority. This effort for peace does not need to come at the cost of so many lives when humanitarian aid is so close and readily available. Waging a war within the urban populous of the city would mean indefinitely endangering the lives of countless civilians who desperately need help to survive.

Maintaining the blockade any longer will only result in more death and carnage, both inside the city of Hodeidah, and out. The violence and combat needs to be brought to an end by all sides so that the innocent can maintain their livelihood.