Home/Daniel Larison/U.N.: A Coalition Attack on Hodeidah Could Cause 250,000 Deaths

U.N.: A Coalition Attack on Hodeidah Could Cause 250,000 Deaths

The U.N. has warned that a Saudi coalition attack on Hodeidah could result in as many as 250,000 deaths:

“A military attack or siege on Hodeidah will impact hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians,” the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in the country, Lise Grande, said in a statement.

“In a prolonged worst case, we fear that as many as 250,000 people may lose everything — even their lives.”

The U.S. absolutely must oppose any attack by the coalition on Hodeidah. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is already the worst in the world, and attacking the port that serves the vast majority of the population will be a death sentence to countless Yemenis that are already starving and suffering from preventable diseases thanks in large part to the coalition blockade. Enabling the Saudi-led war on Yemen has allowed the coalition to reach this point, and the U.S. should never have been supporting the war to begin with. The very least that the administration can do is to rein in the coalition and their proxies and keep them from causing more innocent Yemenis to die senseless and unnecessary deaths.

The U.N. warning refers to the possibility of a quarter million deaths. If a coalition attack goes forward, that estimate may end up being conservative. Iona Craig reports:

So far, the U.S. has been unwilling to back such an invasion, but recent reporting suggests that may be changing. “We have folks who are frustrated and ready to say: Let’s do this. We’ve been flirting with this for a long time. Something needs to change the dynamic, and if we help the Emiratis do it better, this could be good,” an unnamed senior U.S. official told the Wall Street Journal.

That cavalier tone belies the potentially disastrous consequences of such an attack. The port of Hodeidah has been crucial to getting humanitarian supplies and commercial food imports into the country despite severe restrictions imposed by Saudi Arabia that have included a ban on containerized cargo entering Hodeidah’s ports. The United Nations’ humanitarian office estimates that 340,000 people are likely to be displaced if fighting reaches Hodeidah city, adding to the 3 million already internally displaced since the Saudi coalition intervention in Yemen began in March 2015.

“Any disruption to this critical lifeline could be a death sentence for millions of Yemenis,” said Abdi Mohamud, Yemen country director for Mercy Corps. “The humanitarian needs are already overwhelming. The disruption of Hodeidah port could effectively kill any hope of averting a greater humanitarian catastrophe.”

The sheer number of lives at risk in Yemen is greater than in any other conflict in the world right now, but the war and the humanitarian crisis continue to receive a fraction of the coverage that they should be getting. Because Yemen’s story is mostly ignored, the crisis there is not being addressed with the urgency that it requires. The devastation and starvation of Yemen are jeopardizing millions of lives, most of which are threatened by lack of food and preventable disease, and it is within the power of coalition governments and their Western patrons to stop putting those lives at risk if they choose to do so. If the U.S. supports a coalition attack on Hodeidah, it will be helping to cause massive loss of life and possibly even the largest famine in decades.

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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