Saudi Blockade Leaves 20m Yemenis in Crisis

Saudi Blockade Leaves 20m Yemenis in Crisis
Saudi Blockade Leaves 20m Yemenis in Crisis

Around 20 million Yemenis, or nearly 80 percent of the population, are in dire need of food, water and medical supplies, in a humanitarian disaster that aid agencies say has spiraled since the naval blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition with US and British backing, the United Nations said in a report.

Washington and London have tried to persuade Saudi Arabia to temper the attacks, and in particular to ease the naval embargo. While a small number of aid ships have been allowed to unload, the bulk of commercial shipping, is being blocked, World Bulletin reported.

Riyadh has also failed to release any of the $274 million it promised in funding for humanitarian relief. It is still controlling which aid workers will be allowed into Yemen. According to UN figures due to be released next week, 78 percent of the population is in need of emergency aid, an increase of four million over the past three months.

Nuha Abdul Jabber, Oxfam representative in Yemen capital Sanaa, said, “The blockade means it is impossible to bring anything into the country. There are lots of ships, with basic things like flour, not allowed to approach. The situation is deteriorating. Hospitals are now shutting down, without diesel. People are dying of simple diseases. It is becoming almost impossible to survive.”

 2,200 Killed and Counting

At least 2,288 people have been killed and nearly 10,000 injured in Yemen since the beginning of the Saudi-led military campaign against Houthi forces in late March, the UN said Friday.

“More than one million people have been displaced across all governorates in Yemen between March 26 and the end of May,” Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a press conference in Geneva.

“Half of the new displacement, more than half a million people, has occurred in three governorates alone: Hajjah, Ad Dhale’e and Ibb. The number of the displaced is expected to increase further over the coming weeks if the conflict continues,” Laerke said.

 Peace Talks Renewed

Houthi forces and Yemen’s fugitive president, Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, have agreed to attend UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva later this month. The UN has described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as “catastrophic.”

The talks are aimed at ending weeks of fighting that have cost thousands of lives since mid-March. The Geneva meeting, provisionally set for June 14, would be the first significant effort to stop the fighting.

“We accepted the invitation of the United Nations to go to the negotiating table in Geneva without preconditions,” said Daifallah al-Shami, a senior member of the Houthis’ political wing.

Ezzedine al-Isbahi, information minister for the Yemeni government exiled in the Saudi capital, said it would also send a delegation to the talks.

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the meeting would involve “consultations on implementing Resolution 2216.” The UN Security Council passed the resolution in April imposing an arms embargo on Houthis.

Diplomats who attended a closed-door UNSC briefing on Friday said the talks would try to secure a ceasefire and increase deliveries of humanitarian aid.

Houthis took control of Sanaa last September before gaining control of much of the country. An air campaign to restore Hadi was launched by Saudi Arabia. The Houthis have denounced the offensive as unwarranted “Saudi-American aggression” against Yemen.