Civilian casualties in Yemen have shot up dramatically since the start of the Hodeidah offensive. As the offensive continues, it threatens not only to kill and maim many more civilians in and around the port, but the disruption to the port jeopardizes the food supply for the vast majority of people in the entire country. According to CARE International, closure of the port will leave most people in Yemen with no more than 2-3 months’ worth of food:
Yemen has only enough food to sustain its population for two to three months, CARE International has warned, as fears rise that the country’s main port could close as a result of increased Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.
If Hodeidah’s port is sealed off or put out of action, CARE’s Yemen Director Johan Mooij calculates that Yemen’s food supplies will last two to three months, taking into account the World Food Programme’s (WFP) stockpiles and estimated levels of commercial foods sourced from traders.
“Once the harbour is blocked we are talking about millions and millions of people who will not have food,” Mr Mooij told The Independent.
The U.N. and humanitarian groups have been warning about the threat to the civilian population from interruption or closure of the port for the better part of a year, but this has not discouraged the coalition from pressing ahead with an offensive that everyone understands will be disastrous for Yemeni civilians. The U.S. previously opposed attacking Hodeidah because it could lead to massive loss of life, but the Trump administration changed that position and supported the attack. At the same time that the coalition has been even greater harm to the civilian population, the administration has lied on their behalf and claimed the opposite.
The U.N.’s humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, recently spoke to the Security Council about the catastrophe unfolding in Yemen, and warned that they are already losing the fight against famine in the country:
“The position has deteriorated in an alarming way in recent weeks,” Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told the Security Council. “We may now be approaching a tipping point, beyond which it will be impossible to prevent massive loss of life as a result of widespread famine across the country.”
Once a famine has been declared, it is already too late. Yemen may be only months away from suffering one of the largest modern famines. It could still be prevented, but millions of Yemenis are running out of time. Lowcock went on to say this:
“The lifeline through which the aid operation runs now hangs by a thread.”
The coalition offensive will cut that thread if it is not stopped. At the very least, there needs to be a halt to the Hodeidah offensive and a general ceasefire throughout the country, a lifting of the coalition air and sea blockade, and a major relief effort to pull the country back from the edge of the abyss. The U.S. has significant leverage with the Saudi coalition governments and could use it to make some of those things happen, and since the administration clearly won’t do anything to rein them in it will have to be Congress that does it.