Yemen is being pushed ever closer to famine after 1,000 days of a brutal war, exacerbated by a crippling blockade of key northern ports that is starving its people of food, fuel and medicine, Oxfam warned today.
Around 90 per cent of Yemen’s food has to be imported, and since a Saudi-led coalition imposed a blockade of the country’s key northern ports more than a month ago, just over a third of the food its people need is coming in. More than 8.4 million people are now one step away from famine.
The price of food has shot up by 28 per cent since early November 2017, making it increasingly unaffordable for poor families already hit by the collapse of the economy. Clean water supplies in towns and cities have been cut due to fuel shortages, which will have serious implications given that the country is suffering the world’s largest cholera epidemic. Hospitals are running out of medicines and diphtheria cases have risen; at least a million children are at risk of contracting the disease.
Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Policy Advisor Rebecca Barber said cutting off vital food, fuel and medicine to a population was never justified and should never be tolerated.
“For 1,000 days, huge amounts of sophisticated modern weapons have pounded Yemen, and on top of that we are now witnessing a medieval siege where mass starvation is being used as a weapon of war. It’s a tactic that is devoid of any sense of decency, any sense of morality and any sense of humanity,” Ms Barber said.
“We’re finally hearing concern about the pursuit of this war from those countries that have fuelled the destruction through their arms sales – including strong and uncompromising words from the UK and US. These words need to be turned into collective action.
“The $20 million of humanitarian funding the Australian Government provided for Yemen this year is a welcome start. In 2018, the Australian Government needs to continue to closely monitor the crisis, be prepared to commit additional funding and continue to use diplomatic channels to push for peace.”
Over the past 1,000 days of war in Yemen:
· More than 5,500 civilians were killed
· Three million people were forced to flee their homes
· Nearly one million people are suspected of contracting cholera in the world’s worst outbreak ever recorded
Oxfam said all parties to the conflict bore responsibility for these huge levels of human suffering and all were responsible for violations of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law.
No fuel, essential for moving food and other vital goods around the country, has been allowed into the main ports since early November. The Ras Isa oil terminal, on Yemen’s west coast, has been closed since March, following instructions from the Saudi-led coalition.
Around 80 per cent of all of Yemen’s imports flow through Al-Hudaydah and Saleef ports, and about two-thirds of Yemen’s population live in the areas directly served by these ports. These ports handled around 85 per cent of all wheat grain imports in 2016. At least six ships waiting to dock at the ports of Al-Hudaydah and Saleef port have turned back due to lengthy delays.
There are worrying signs that there could be an imminent attack on Al-Hudaydah port. The port’s cargo handling infrastructure – cranes and warehouses – have been attacked before, which has reduced its capacity to import goods.
A battle over the port would have a massive impact of the millions of people reliant on its imports. There is no realistic alternative to shipping in sufficient quantities of food, fuel and medicines.
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Photos and quotes from Yemenis Oxfam has spoken to: https://oxfam.app.box.com/s/7q7hqc754iosxqqbqto7vly8odlgomxb/folder/43468389738