Killing Yemen with Hunger
Jane Ferguson writes about the use of starvation as a weapon in the war on Yemen:
A blockade of the rebel-held area is intermittently enforced by the Saudis, with all shipments of food and other imported goods subject to U.N. or coalition approval and inspections, driving up prices. Saudi-led aerial bombing has destroyed infrastructure and businesses, and has devastated the economy inside rebel-held areas.
The coalition blockade drives up prices of basic goods so that they are prohibitively expensive at the same time that they wreck the country’s economy with their military campaign. The war on Yemen further impoverishes an already poor country and strangles the civilian population with starvation. This has been documented and made known to all parties for years, so there is no question that the coalition governments know the effects that their actions are having. They are acting deliberately to starve Yemen into submission while feigning concern for the victims of their own policies.
The ongoing attack on Hodeidah threatens to make all of this much worse:
The Saudis have ignored pleas from every humanitarian organization operating in Yemen to halt the offensive in Hodeidah. The groups warn that disrupting the port’s operations will spark food-price increases and famine in areas under Houthi control. “I would say if it’s closed for a matter of two weeks you will start seeing an impact on the streets,” Frank McManus, the country director for the New York-based International Rescue Committee, told me.
Leading hawkish House Democrats recently wrote a letter urging the Saudis and UAE to reconsider their demands for the surrender of the port. There is growing opposition in Congress to the assault on Hodeidah, and that is increasing overall opposition to U.S. support for the war. Congress needs to move more quickly and bring more pressure to bear on the Saudis and their allies if they are to prevent the world’s worst humanitarian crisis from getting even worse.
While the blockade is doing the most harm, it is important to remember that the coalition is also attacking food production and distribution inside Yemen as well. Here Ferguson notes that systematic targeting of farms and fishing boats, which Iona Craig reported on last year:
Martha Mundy, a retired professor of anthropology from the London School of Economics, has, along with Yemeni colleagues, analyzed the location of air strikes throughout the war. She said their records show that civilian areas and food supplies are being intentionally targeted. “If one looks at certain areas where they say the Houthis are strong, particularly Saada, then it can be said that they are trying to disrupt rural life—and that really verges on scorched earth,” Mundy told me. “In Saada, they hit the popular, rural weekly markets time and again. It’s very systematic targeting of that.”
There was a recent example of this just a few days ago when an airstrike near Taiz killed ten civilians at a farm:
— Ahmad Algohbary (@AhmadAlgohbary) July 8, 2018
Civilian targets in Saada have been struck frequently ever since the entire area was illegally declared to be a military target by the coalition over three years ago:
Saada, the Houthis’ ancestral home and stronghold in the country’s northwest, has been pummelled by air strikes. Refugees from that area, who moved into makeshift camps near the border with Saudi Arabia after the strikes, told me that coalition forces then bombed their settlements. A man named Jabr Ali Al Ghaferi said that his wife was hit with shrapnel and died a few days later. “The air strikes targeted the gate and the bridge which connected the camp to the market,” he said.
The U.S. enables these attacks with its military assistance to the Saudi coalition. Contrary to administration claims, this is an aggressive war being waged on the people of Yemen, and our participation in it is wholly indefensible. The U.S. ought to have nothing to do with this campaign, and it ought to be using whatever leverage it has with the Saudis and the UAE to stop it, lift the blockade, and give political negotiations a chance to put an end to the war for good. The Trump administration isn’t going to do this on its own, so that means Congress and the public have to insist on it.