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Yemen: Blockade continues to severely hamper humanitarian efforts to reach millions in desperate need

17 Nov 2017


The blockade by the Saudi-Led Coalition on Yemen’s Sana’a airport and the country’s main sea ports in Hudaydah and Saleef is now in its 12th day. It is hurting millions of Yemenis who require urgent humanitarian assistance to stave off starvation and disease.

Yesterday, the United Nations and 14 international non-governmental organizations in Yemen released a joint statement, expressing the humanitarian community’s outrage by the continued blockade. The statement warned that 7 million people are now on the brink of famine.

The blockade especially worries some 17 million Yemenis who do not know where their next meal will come from. As supplies run low, food prices rise dramatically, putting thousands more at risk.

“The humanitarian community in Yemen calls on the Saudi-led coalition to immediately reopen all Yemeni ports to commercial and humanitarian cargo, without which millions of people are at risk of starvation and death”, said the statement. “Humanitarian flights to Sana’a must be allowed to resume immediately to ensure the movement of aid workers and the transport of relief cargo.”

On the same day, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) also released a joint statement, warning that “More than 20 million people, including over 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.” The three agencies say they have the lifesaving food, medicine and supplies that are needed to save the lives of the affected, but “we must have the access that is currently being denied.”

Importing medical supplies is crucial to prevent a health catastrophe and contain a new outbreak of diphtheria, which is putting the lives of nearly one million children at risk. Over 120 diagnoses and 14 deaths have been reported in the last weeks.

The Hudaydah and Saleef ports would allow around 80 per cent of commercial imports to enter through. While the availability of Aden air and sea ports has been welcomed, this port does not have sufficient offloading and storage capacity required for commercial cargo, especially for food commodities. Essential commercial supplies must be allowed to enter through Sana’a airport and the Hudaydah and Saleef ports to quickly and safely reach the areas with the highest populations.

Yemen has the obligation to meet the needs of its population; this requires allowing essential supplies to enter and be distributed throughout the country.

Another indispensable source for the provision of water in Yemen is fuel. According to reports, the lack of fuel imports has led three cities to stop their clean water and sewage systems. Within the next 10 days, the northern part of Yemen is expected to completely run out of fuel, causing greater worry for the people of Yemen and the humanitarian community.

Photos: OCHA/G.Clarke