Yemen Is Still Being Starved to Death
Reuters reports on the effects of the Saudi-led, U.S.-backed blockade of Yemen:
The de facto blockade is exacting a dire humanitarian toll. The Saudi-led coalition’s ships are preventing essential supplies from entering Yemen, even in cases where vessels are carrying no weapons [bold mine-DL], according to previously unreported port records, a confidential United Nations report and interviews with humanitarian agencies and shipping lines.
A U.N. system set up in May 2016 to ease delivery of commercial goods through the blockade has failed to ensure the Yemeni people get the supplies they need.
The result is the effective isolation of Yemen, a nation of 28 million people where a quarter of the population is starving, according to the United Nations.
The coalition blockade has been one of the least-covered aspects of the war in most reports on a war that is already ignored by most media outlets. Together with the air blockade and closure of Sanaa’s international airport, the sea blockade has been depriving Yemen of basic necessities and aid shipments for two and a half years. It has contributed directly to the worsening famine and cholera crises, and it is one of the principal causes of the widespread malnutrition and starvation among the civilian population. The coalition bombing of Hodeidah’s cranes and the ongoing refusal to permit replacements to be brought in has further exacerbated the problem:
In the first eight months of this year, only 21 container ships sailed to Hodeida, according to port data compiled by the U.N. World Food Programme and Reuters [bold mine-DL]. By comparison, 54 container ships delivered twice the volume of goods in the same period last year. Before the war, 129 container ships reached the port in the first eight months of 2014.
Food and medicine are being choked off [bold mine-DL]. No commercial shipment of pharmaceuticals has made its way to Hodeida since a Saudi-led airstrike destroyed the port’s industrial cranes in August 2015, according to the administrator of the port, which is under Houthi control. In at least one case this year, a blocked commercial shipment contained humanitarian aid as well.
The few goods that do make it into the country are far too expensive for most people to purchase in a country where there was already great poverty before the intervention.
Many ships that were bringing in critical supplies of food and medicine have been diverted or severely delayed in making their deliveries:
In the cases of the Kota Nazar and 12 other ships examined in detail by Reuters, the Saudi-led blockade turned away or severely delayed vessels carrying aid and commercial goods before they reached Yemeni ports even though the United Nations had cleared the cargo and there were no arms aboard. Seven of those vessels were carrying medicine and food in addition to other supplies.
Aid shipments are caught in the net. One of the seven vessels was carrying antibiotics, surgical equipment and medication for cholera and malaria for 300,000 people. The shipment was held up for three months, during which $20,000 worth of medicine was damaged or expired [bold mine-DL], according to U.K.-based aid group Save the Children.
As we can see, this is not just an unfortunate side-effect of an arms embargo gone awry, but has been and continues to be a deliberate policy of starving the population of vital supplies. It is outrageous that the coalition is impeding the delivery of medicine during the world’s worst cholera outbreak, but their role in exacerbating the crisis often goes unmentioned in reports on the epidemic.
The devastating effects of the blockade have been known for the last two years, and they were entirely foreseeable. It was certain that imposing a blockade on a country that imports almost all of its food would cause a massive humanitarian crisis. Critics of the coalition’s intervention warned about all of this when the war started in the spring of 2015, and we have continued to raise the alarm about the starvation of Yemen that the coalition is causing. It is refreshing to see a full report on how the blockade is creating the dire conditions in Yemen, but it is hard to understand why there haven’t been many more of these reports in the last two years.