Home/Daniel Larison/A Deadly Fuel Shortage in Yemen Threatens 15 Million People

A Deadly Fuel Shortage in Yemen Threatens 15 Million People

Oxfam warns that 15 million Yemenis are being cut off from their access to clean drinking water because of the fuel shortage:

11 million people relying on water supplied by piped networks and four million people who depend on water trucked in by private companies have had to drastically reduce their daily consumption since fuel prices soared in September. In three major cities, Ibb, Dhamar and Al Mahwit, home to around 400,000 people, central water systems have been forced to shut down completely.

Oxfam has had to cut trucked water to thousands of people because of the increase in fuel prices. Piped water systems installed by Oxfam, which supply a quarter of a million people, are running at around 50 percent capacity.

Access to clean water is a matter of life and death in Yemen, particularly for the more than seven million people already weakened by malnourishment, as water-borne diseases are rife. The country has experienced one of the worst cholera outbreaks in recent history. Since April 2017, there have been over two million suspected cases of cholera and over 3700 deaths.

The current fuel crisis is the latest example of the warring parties using the economy as a weapon of war. Fuel supplies have been an ongoing problem in Yemen but escalated dramatically last month following extra restrictions on imports announced by the internationally recognized government [bold mine-DL]. The Houthi authorities are also placing restrictions on imports.

The fuel shortage is the latest hardship imposed on the civilian population by the policies of the Hadi government and its Saudi coalition backers. The “legitimate” government has been waging an economic war on the people of Yemen for years, and this has fueled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Yemen was already suffering from a new cholera outbreak this year. Recent reports put the number of those affected by the new outbreak at more than 600,000. Threatening access to clean water for 15 million people is outrageous, but it is unfortunately how this war has been waged on the people of Yemen for more than four and a half years. This fuel shortage puts roughly half the population of the entire country at greater risk of contracting water-borne diseases when there have already been millions of cases of cholera.

Lack of fuel makes it impossible for many people in Yemen to access water because it means they cannot run the pumps needed to bring the water up out of the ground or fuel the trucks to deliver water from elsewhere:

Fuel is crucial to the supply of clean water in Yemen. Many people depend on groundwater which is brought to the surface by pumps running on solar power and fuel. Others, particularly people who have had to flee their homes and are living in camps, rely on water brought in by trucks which run on diesel.

More than three million Yemenis have been displaced by war, and they are particularly vulnerable to interruptions in the delivery of water because they have no other recourse. Oxfam is calling for an end to all restrictions on imports, and the U.S. should be pressuring the Hadi government and the Saudi coalition to make that happen. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis gets worse each day that the war drags on, and as long as the U.S. supports this war our government shares in the responsibility for creating this catastrophe.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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