Yemen’s northern ports have only imported just over half the country’s monthly food supply and only 18 per cent of its fuel supply since a Saudi led-coalition’s blockade was temporarily lifted three-and-a-half weeks ago, Oxfam said today.
The continued restrictions of vital supplies further endangers the 8.4 million people living on the brink of famine in Yemen. The northern ports are the entry point for most of the goods the country needs to import. with 80 per cent of all goods coming through the port of Hodeida. Ninety per cent of the country’s food has to be imported. The recent arrival of much-needed new cranes in Hodeida is very welcome and crucial to speeding up the unloading of supplies through the port.
Oxfam has warned of a catastrophic deterioration in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the site of the largest cholera outbreak on record. The organisation said the lives of 22 million people in need of aid will continue to deteriorate if there is not a significant rise in the imports of the vital food, fuel and medicine.
On 19 January, the blockade will have been lifted for a month. Oxfam is calling for all ports to remain open to the uninterrupted flow of commercial and humanitarian goods.
Shane Stevenson, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen, said: “The wanton disregard on all sides of this conflict for the lives of ordinary families struggling to cope after more than 1,000 days of war is nothing short of an international scandal. This is a war waged with hi-tech, 21st century weapons, but the tactic of starvation is from the Dark Ages. The international community must come together and take a stand against the barbarism.
“There should be an immediate UN Security Council resolution calling for a full unrestricted opening of ports to commercial and humanitarian goods, an immediate ceasefire and redoubling of efforts for peace talks.”
Fuel tankers and bulk cargo vessels carrying grain have docked but no container vessels have arrived, meaning that foods essential for survival, such as edible oil, have not entered the ports for some time and food prices have been rising since the conflict started.
Last month the price of imported cooking oil increased by 61 per cent in Al Baidha, 130 miles south east of the capital Sana’a. The price of wheat rose by 10 per cent across the country over the same period. In Hodeida, in the west of the country, the price of barley is three times higher than before the conflict.
The food and fuel import crisis is exacerbated by a collapse in the country’s currency which has seen a dramatic drop in the exchange rate from 250 rials per US dollar to 500 in recent weeks. This will put more pressure on prices and hit the poorest and the families of the estimated 1.24 million civilian servants who have not received, or only occasionally received, a salary since August 2016.
Oxfam said that not only should the blockade be permanently lifted, there should also be an end to unnecessary restrictions on cargo ships coming into port. It called for an immediate ceasefire, an end to arms sales that have been fueling the conflict and called on backers of the war to use their influence to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table.
Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Policy Advisor Dr Nicole Bieske said cutting off vital food, fuel and medicine to a population is never justified and should never be tolerated.
“The $20 million of humanitarian funding the Australian Government provided for Yemen in 2017 was 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,” Dr Bieske said.
For interviews or more information, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Donations to support Oxfam’s emergency responses in Yemen and around the world can be made online at oxfam.org.au/yemen or by calling 1800 034 034.
Oxfam spokespeople are available for interview, in Yemen, Melbourne and other locations.
Photos and quotes from Yemenis Oxfam has spoken to: https://oxfam.app.box.com/s/7q7hqc754iosxqqbqto7vly8odlgomxb/folder/43468389738
Notes to editors:
While the blockade has been temporarily lifted, 190,000 tonnes of food arrived at the main northern ports between 20 December and 15 January, compared with the estimated monthly food needs of 350,000 tonnes, according to the UN, shipping agencies and port authorities. Fuel imports over the same period were 97,000 tonnes compared with an estimated monthly fuel needs of 544,000 tonnes.
And, due to the fuel shortages and uncertainty of imports, one of Yemen’s major food companies has reduced its grain milling operations and another is struggling with milling and distributing food inside the country. Companies also face arbitrary restrictions by parties to the conflict when moving food around the country.