Twelve days after the closure of land, air and sea ports in Yemen, Action Against Hunger and other humanitarian agencies are appalled by the complacency and indifference of the international community regarding the historic humanitarian disaster now unfolding.
Disease is a major threat, with a new outbreak of cholera and other waterborne diseases on the rise, and UNICEF warns that it only has 15 days of diphtheria vaccines left. UNICEF is due to receive a new shipment in late November, but it still has not received clearance. If this vaccine is not delivered, one million children will be at risk of preventable diseases.
The fuel shortage is another major threat: clean water in the country is more and more scarce without fuel to power water pumps, and water networks are closing by the day as fuel for the pumps runs out and pipes run dry. The lack of water poses grave risks to young children most of all. Schools will become centers of disease rather than centers of knowledge. With no fuel, hospitals are closing wards and struggling to operate intensive care units and surgical operation theaters. Refrigeration units for essential medicines are being turned off for periods of time to save fuel. Doctors, some of whom have not been paid for ten months, are asking international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) and the United Nations to share their small supplies of fuel to run their lifesaving generators. Many INGOs say they only have a one-month supply of fuel left.
In response to this deteriorating situation, humanitarian organizations are starting to double the amount of the cash distributions they provide to the most vulnerable people. This will help people to buy and store food for the coming cold winter months before prices rise beyond their means.
The stocks of wheat and sugar in Yemen will not last for longer than three months if cargo vessels are not allowed to discharge in Hodeidah, the country’s only deep water sea port, in the next few days. Even if they are allowed now, food distribution systems have been severely disrupted and may collapse within weeks. Moreover, having incurred so many additional costs and in a highly volatile environment, international traders may decide that importing to Yemen is too risky.
Action Against Hunger and others are calling on the international community to break its silence and use all possible means to lift the blockade on Yemen immediately. Hodeidah port —which serviced 80 percent of all imports—and Sana’a airport need to be reopened to let in urgently needed shipments of food, fuel and medicines.
Every day that the blockade is in effect means thousands of Yemenis will suffer from hunger and preventable diseases. Millions could die in a historic famine if the blockade continues indefinitely. The choice is between meaningful and urgent action—and complicity in the suffering. There is no third option.
Action Against Hunger shared this statement in coordination with: ACTED, ADRA, CARE, Danish Refugee Council, Handicap International, International Rescue Committee, Medecins Du Monde, Mercy Corps, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Relief International, World Relief Germany, and Zoa.