The humanitarian situation in Yemen worsens with every passing day.
“Everywhere I went, I saw roads, bridges, factories, hotels, and houses that had been destroyed by bombing or shelling. In Hudaydah, I met seven-year-old Nora. She weighs 11 kg – that is the average weight for a two-year-old, not a seven-year-old. I met health workers who have not been paid for months. And I heard from children who have not been to school for almost a year. What do we think a generation of Yemeni children robbed of an education will be like as adults? “ – this is what Mark Lowcock, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, wrote in his report upon returning from Yemen on November 6th.
Yemen is currently facing the biggest famine in decades, that could result in millions of deaths if action is not taken swiftly.
The poorest country in the Middle East has been suffering from civil war for almost three years, with 2 million Yemenis internally displaced, over 5,000 civilians killed and almost 50,000 injured in bombings, airstrikes and fighting on the ground. 17 million people are considered food insecure and some 3.3 million children and pregnant or breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished.
This week, the Saudi-led coalition completely shut down air, land and sea routes into the country, after a long-range ballistic missile was fired in Riyadh on November 4th. Yemen’s Houthi rebels have claimed responsibility for the explosion. Saudi Arabia explained that the blockade was needed to stop Iran from supplying missiles to the rebels, but this blockade also does not allow passage of humanitarian aid that keeps many Yemenis alive. Neither The Red Cross, nor Médecins Sans Frontières have access to the city, and the current stock of vaccines will only last one month. Absence of supply could lead to new outbreaks of communicable diseases, such as cholera.
Meanwhile, the UN are not taking any decisive action to lift the blockade, despite being aware of the potential scale of the catastrophe. After the missile attack, Saudi Arabia warned the United Nations Security Council that it will take necessary steps to ensure the security of the Kingdom and will respond to acts of violence by the Houthi rebels. The attack on Riyadh was publically condemned by the UN, but no measures followed. Now, the international community is waiting for the UN to pressure Saudi Arabia to lift the blockade, but so far, the Saudi-led coalition and the United Arab Emirates were only included in the annual UN “list of shame” for violations against children.
According to Vladimir Isaev, professor of international economic relations in the Institute of Asian and African Studies in Moscow, Russia, the UN is afraid to rock the boat too much and to worsen the already strained relations between the USA and Saudi Arabia. “A lot of Saudi funds are now flowing away from the United States to London, that is what probably dictates the UN actions. The international community needs to negotiate the blockade with the coalition, persuade it to let through ships loaded with relief materials”.
Similarly, professor Lawrence Davidson, from West Chester University in West Chester, Pennsylvania thinks that “they [Saudi Arabia] are getting away with it because various states, European states, United States, Asian states don’t put pressure on them to change“.
There is still some hope left that while visiting the newly opened Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, the French president Emmanuel Macron will call on his Emirati counterparts to respect international law, let the humanitarian help through and find an inclusive political solution to the crisis in Yemen.