Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1245, (7 - 13 May 2015)
Wednesday,19 September, 2018
Issue 1245, (7 - 13 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Humanitarian crisis in Yemen

Continuing Arab coalition air strikes in Yemen are leading to a humanitarian crisis in the country, reports Haitham Nouri

Al-Ahram Weekly

Military operations by the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen have now entered week six amid Russian criticisms of Arab and Western countries that “only pay lip service to Yemen.”

UN relief agencies are warning that humanitarian conditions are deteriorating in Yemen and that “the country is on the brink of famine.”

Air strikes by the Arab coalition ended five weeks of heavy bombing by targeting a residential area in the capital Sanaa. According to the BBC, ten civilians were killed in the attack. Yemen’s official news agency Saba News, which is affiliated with the Houthi movement, reported that between 20 and 50 people were injured by Operation Decisive Storm.

UN reports have indicated that the conflict, which began on 19 March, has so far killed nearly 1,200 people and injured 5,000. Meanwhile, some 150,000 people have fled their homes and relocated to other parts of Yemen. There are no figures on the number of Yemeni refugees in Djibouti and Somalia.

The reported number of displaced does not include those who fled from their homes in Sanaa and other cities at the start of the air strikes, seeking safety in their home villages.

Eyewitnesses told the Weekly that humanitarian conditions in Yemen are appalling and are deteriorating every day. The siege of the country continues, preventing the import of food, fuel and medicine.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned on 25 April that fuel shortages threaten the delivery of all humanitarian relief to Yemen “within days.”

“Sanaa has been living in darkness for at least two weeks. At best, power is on for only a few hours a day,” said Yemeni journalist Nabiha Al-Haydari, deputy managing editor of Saba News. “Since the start of the siege, we have begun to relive conditions we had forgotten, such as long lines of cars waiting at petrol stations for fuel.”

Fuel shortages and the resulting power outages have affected hospitals. Ahmed Mansour of the Al-Jumhouriya Hospital in Aden said that medical equipment, including incubators and dialysis machines, have stopped functioning at his hospital because of the power outages.

 The Yemen Red Crescent in Aden has asked for urgent help to provide food and medicine for residents suffering from a serious humanitarian crisis because of fighting between the Houthis and militias loyal to President Abd Rabo Mansour Hadi.

These battles are not limited to the Houthis and their Sunni rivals in Aden, but have spread over the past week to other parts of Yemen, including Me’reb, Ta’ez and Al-Badaa.

The International Red Cross (IRC) has also reported that the health system in Yemen is suffering because of fuel shortages and restrictions on food and medicine imports as a result of the siege.

“We are shocked by the disregard for hospitals by all parties,” the IRC stated, noting that the Al-Jumhouriya Hospital was evacuated after it became a battlefield, with 47 people dying in Arab coalition strikes.

In Sanaa, Al-Haydari said that diesel reserves at the Kuwait Hospital were exhausted and ambulances could no longer transport the sick and injured. “There is another side to the siege in the collapse of families who rely on remittances from family members working in the Gulf countries or even in the West. The siege has also been imposed on the banks,” she said.

 “Matters have been made worse as a result of the blockade on food imports which has raised food prices enormously, making food no longer affordable to the majority of people.”

According to the UN, food prices skyrocketed by 40 per cent at the end of April and the price of fuel rose by 400 per cent.

Arab coalition air strikes bombed the runway of Sanaa Airport last week, making it even more difficult for food supplies to arrive. Some believe the goal of the siege and the bombing of airports is to make it difficult to deliver assistance, even if the Gulf countries fulfill their promises of assistance to the Yemeni people.

The UN estimates that $275 million in humanitarian relief is needed to aid more than 7.5 million afflicted people in Yemen out of population of 25 million, according to UN figures in 2013. This number could rise to 12 million if economic and humanitarian conditions continue to deteriorate.

Russia’s representative at the UN Security Council, Vitaly Churkin, accused Arab and Western countries of not fulfilling their commitment to meeting the humanitarian needs of Yemen after these countries failed to support Moscow’s call for periodic ceasefires to allow the delivery of assistance.

“I was willing to remove the clause requiring an immediate ceasefire,” Churkin said of the Moscow-backed call. “However, there is a need for a periodic ceasefire to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, and they did not even agree to that.”

He further criticised Security Council members by saying, “They only pay lip service to Yemen. They say the situation in the country is dire, but what are they going to do about it?”

Despite the horrendous humanitarian conditions in Yemen, the Arab coalition has not achieved the goals behind its bombing of Yemen, most notably “restoring legitimacy.”

Nonetheless, Saudi Defence Minister Mohamed bin Salman, described by the UK newspaper The Guardian as “the Saudi face of the Arab Coalition,” has recently been promoted to second in line to the Saudi throne behind the new crown prince, Mohamed bin Nayef.

No official in Hadi’s government has yet returned to Yemen to continue with his duties, and the majority of cabinet members and regime figures live outside Yemen. The headquarters of the Yemeni government is currently in Riyadh.

While Saudi Arabia recently announced the end of Operation Storm of Resolve and the start of Operation Restore Hope, this has not ended the Saudi air strikes against targets in Yemen or the suffering of the Yemeni people.


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