The man-made humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen is getting worse. Prior to the closure of Yemen’s borders, over two and a half years of conflict had transformed Yemen into the world’s largest food insecurity crisis, seen deplorable attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure and unleashed an unprecedented cholera epidemic. Some 21 million are in need humanitarian assistance, seven million of whom are facing famine-like conditions and rely completely on food aid to survive.
The Saudi-led coalition has closed Yemen’s borders, effectively disrupting the delivery of assistance to 27 million people. Yemen’s main commercial airport had already been closed for a period of more than one year, preventing Yemenis from travelling out of the country for critical health treatment. Now, even UN flights and boat have been stopped.
Over 550 humanitarian personnel have been affected by the cancellation of flights. As of today, there are over 310 international humanitarian staff working in Yemen, who are stuck due to the blockade. In the event of a medical emergency, the international community has no means of evacuating staff. The Humanitarian Coordinator cannot enter the country to coordinate the humanitarian operations.
The continued closure by the Saudi-led coalition of critical seaports and airports is aggravating the dire humanitarian crisis - posing a critical threat to the lives of millions already struggling to survive.
Humanitarian supplies are running dangerously low: UNICEF has three weeks' supplies of vaccines left and there are only 20 trauma kits, enough for 2,000 surgeries in-country A UNICEF/WHO boat with essential medicine and vaccines is blocked in Djibouti. Medical supplies are essential to stem the cholera outbreak and a new outbreak of diphtheria.
Due to limited funding, humanitarian agencies are only able to target one third of the population (seven million) and some two thirds of the population rely on commercially imported supplies. The continued availability of commodities in the markets is essential to preventing unprecedented famine in Yemen. Commercial stocks of wheat are only enough for three months for the entire population of 28 million people. There are 112 days until current stocks of rice are depleted.
Humanitarian imports cannot address the needs of the population. All ports in Yemen need to remain open to commercial traffic. Yemen requires monthly food imports of approximately 350,000 MT for survival, of which humanitarian imports are approximately 75,000 tons. About 80 per cent of commercial and humanitarian imports arrive through Hudaydah and Saleef, which together have a total handling capacity of 660,000 MT per month. Jezan and Aden ports are not a substitute for Hudaydah and Saleef ports for grain, because they do not have the spare offload or milling capacity.
The diversion of vessels from Hudaydah and Saleef ports to Aden is not a viable option since the port of Aden lacks the absorption capacity required for both humanitarian and commercial shipments. Such a diversion would result in the concrete risk of congestion, delays and high demurrage costs. Additionally, overland transport of supplies Yemen: Key messages on the continued closure of Yemen’s ports - 13 November 2017to northern governorate would be longer more expensive and insecure across the line of an active conflict. All of Yemen’s ports must be opened.
We ask the Saudi-led Coalition that Yemen’s sea, air and land borders be reopened as a matter of priority to resume the provision of commercial and humanitarian supplies and the movement of aid workers. We have been successful in mitigating the threat of famine, reaching seven million people with direct assistance. The cessation of imports will reverse gains made and leave millions of Yemeni people without food and medicine.
We reiterate that humanitarian aid is not the solution to Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe. Only a peace process will halt the horrendous suffering of millions of innocent civilians.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.