(Prepared by: Paul Tippell, TRAKNAT coordinator email@example.com, 07970868508, 12 November 2017)
The man-made catastrophe facing the people of Yemen as a result of the air, land and sea blockade by the Saudis is putting over 7 million at risk of starvation.
UN representatives have said that stocks of food and medical supplies will run out in weeks. Seven million people are at threat of famine and well over half of the 26m Yemeni’s don’t know where they will get their next meal from. The 900,000 cholera cases are the worst the world has ever seen. The Saudis are blockading Hodeidah port and Sanna airport where the poorest live. As a result Yemen will face "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims." said UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock. Hundreds of children are dying every week from cholera or starvation.
The water and sewage systems in Hodeida, Sa'ada and Taiz (all major cities) stopped operating because of a lack of fuel caused by the Saudi blockade. As a result close to one million people are deprived of clean water and sanitation.
2. Please, please seek an urgent meeting with your MP to ask him to use all the resources at his disposal to get this issue in the headlines and lobby the Government both in Parliament and using the media, meetings etc.
Lobby the Foreign Secretary to ask him to:
1. Bring immediate pressure to bear on Saudi Arabia to (a) lift it’s blockade of Hodeida port and Sanna airport in order to allow food and medical supplies to enter the country, and (b) allow the WHO to bring in cranes to Hodeida to provide access for humanitarian supplies via the port (c) to allow journalists access to Sanna airport,
2. Use all means at his disposal, including our permanent membership of the Security Council, and direct FCO contact, to initiate peace talks between the warring parties,
3. Ask the Foreign Secretary ( a) what discussions he has had to date with his Saudi counterpart urging an end to the blockade of humanitarian supplies, (b) is he willing to redouble our efforts at the Security Council to secure a lifting of the Saudi humanitarian aid blockade and (c) will he consider suspending arms supplies to Saudi if (i)they fail to lift their blockade, (ii) and continue to target civilians and civilian infrastructure and (iii) refuse to actively engage in peace talks with the Houthis.
The UN has warned of a “Catastrophe “ for the people of Yemen as a result of the air, land and sea blockade by the Saudis, which is putting millions at risk. Yemen imports up to 90 per cent of its daily needs and seven million people are being kept alive by humanitarian aid. “Humanitarian operations are being blocked as a result of the closure ordered by the Saudi-led coalition”, said Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.1
The U.N. humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock warned that unless the Saudi-led military coalition lifts its blockade on Yemen the war-torn nation will face "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims." He couldn't put a timeline on famine if the Saudi blockade isn't lifted, .. but it is inevitable”2 He said, “Since Monday (6 November), Riyadh has prevented aid agencies from landing planes in the country and docking at Yemen's ports, worsening an already dire humanitarian situation”.3
“Seven million people are at threat of famine and well over half of the 26m Yemeni’s don’t know where they will get their next meal from” said former Conservative Minister and UN Humanitarian chief Sir Stephen O’Brien. The 900,000 cholera cases are the worst the world has ever seen. This is the World’s largest humanitarian crisis, and it is all completely avoidable. Speaking on BBC Radio4, he said “There is not going to be a military solution to be fought to the end, the only solution to the crisis is a political solution, a compromise”. He said that the UK was not being aggressive enough, given its position as a member of the permanent five at the UN Security Council, where, as such, it has the biggest influence, to initiate and draw attention to action that Security Council can bring to bear to seek such a solution to end the suffering of the Yeminis . 4
He drew attention to the blockade (by the Saudis) of Hodeida port which is the main supply route for food and medical supplies into the poorest areas and it is where the only people with air power are the Saudi led coalition. In 2015 Saudi aircraft bombed the port and destroyed cranes and warehouses. 5 The Saudis have been blocking the delivery of 4 replacement cranes, paid for by the US.
World Food Programme Director, David Beasley said, “if this port continues to be blocked literally hundreds of thousands of children will die and millions of people along with them”. 6 90% of cholera deaths and the worst cases of starvation are in Houthi controlled areas. Hodeida is the only port in Houthi hands. 6
As of the 14 November 2017 the Saudis are still preventing access for food and medical supplies to Houthi areas (these are the areas in greatest need where most of the cholera cases are located) 7
The deputy representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) in Yemen, Sherin Varkey, told the BBC that the impact of the port closures on the country's already dire humanitarian situation could be devastating. With more than 2,000 people believed to have died as a result of a cholera outbreak since April, he says that the on-going blockade will undo the work done to curtail its spread. At the peak of the outbreak, 6,000 to 7,000 cases were being treated every day. It had been brought down to around 3,500 before the blockade was tightened. Unicef also treats 27,000 children a month for severe and acute malnutrition, and with no aid deliveries stocks of nutrition supplies will run out within two months. Dr Varkey said that would affect the treatment of approximately 400,000 children suffering from the life-threatening condition over the coming year.7
International Committee of the Red Cross have said (17th November 17) that as a result of the blockade, which has stopped imports of fuel and other essential goods, "The water and sewage systems in Hodeida, Sa'ada and Taiz (all major cities) stopped operating because of a lack of fuel". As a result close to one million people are deprived of clean water and sanitation. 8
The United Nations demanded media access to report on the “man-made catastrophe” in Yemen after a Saudi Arabia-led coalition blocked journalists, including three from the BBC, from entering Yemen and reporting on the situation. 9
The Saudi air force has carried out indiscriminate attacks that have caused the majority of civilian deaths and injuries during the conflict. Airstrikes have targeted civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, farms, schools, water infrastructure, markets and the main port of Hodeida. They complement a Saudi-led naval and air blockade of rebel-controlled areas that has caused shortages of many essential items, including food, fuel and medical supplies. 10
A UN report stated that “Attacks carried out by air (by the Saudi led-coalition) caused over half of all child casualties, with at least 349 killed and 333 injured,”11
Human Rights Watch (HRW) documents Saudi airstrikes on civilian infrastructure, including factories and power stations. Each of these attacks appeared to be in violation of international humanitarian law, or the laws of war. HRW claims “the laws of war prohibit deliberate attacks on civilian objects, attacks that do not discriminate between military targets and civilian objects, and attacks that disproportionately harm civilian objects compared to the expected military gain of the attack.”12
More than one-third of all Saudi-led air raids on Yemen have hit civilian sites, such as school buildings, hospitals, markets, mosques and economic infrastructure, according to the most comprehensive survey of the conflict.13
Hospitals frequently have no power because of damage to power stations caused by the war.6
Stocks of fuel and vaccines in the poorest regions will run out in a month unless the Saudi-led coalition stops blockading Hodeidah port and Sanna airport, said Meritxell Relano, the UNICEF’s representative in the country. (10th November 17)14. Hodeidah and Sanna are both in Houthi controlled areas where the poorest live.
After two years of civil war, Yemen has 7 million people on the brink of famine and has had 900,000 suspected cholera cases in the past six months. The number of new cases has fallen consistently for the past eight weeks, according to data from the World Health Organization.
But progress against cholera, which has killed 2,196 people, could be reversed by the blockade, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva.“If the closure is not stopped in the coming days, we may see that the progress is stopped,” Chaib said. “We can see even more cases and more deaths as a result of not being able to get access to people.”
The closure of Hodeidah port prevented a ship setting sail from Djibouti with 250 tonnes of WHO medical supplies on Wednesday. Trauma kits in particular are running short. “If the hostilities continue and the ports remain closed, we will not be able to perform life-saving surgeries or provide basic healthcare,” Chaib said.
“Children are losing their lives all the time in Yemen, because they are malnourished and don't have the ability to fight off even a cold.”
Prepared by: Paul Tippell, firstname.lastname@example.org, 07970868508, 12 November 2017
1 UN Press Briefing, Geneva, 7 November 17: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58044#.WghW8pdLHnF
2 The Telegraph 9 November 17: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/11/09/un-warns-worlds-largest-famine-yemen-saudi-does-not-end-blockade/
3 CNN, ‘Saudi blockade pushing Yemen toward 'worst famine in decades' 9 November 17 http://edition.cnn.com/2017/11/09/middleeast/yemen-famine-saudi-arabia/index.html
5 Reuters: ‘Saudi-led warplanes hit Yemeni port, aid group sounds alarm’ 18 August 17 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security/saudi-led-warplanes-hit-yemeni-port-aid-group-sounds-alarm-idUSKCN0QN0HX20150818
7 BBC World News 14 November 2017 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-41932807
8 IRIC, 17th November 17,” Yemen: Border closure shuts down water, sewage systems, raising cholera risk” https://www.icrc.org/en/document/yemen-border-closure-shuts-down-water-sewage-systems-raising-cholera-risk
9 Reuters: ‘U.N. says world needs to know about Yemen, journalists need access’ July 19 17 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-flight-un/u-n-says-world-needs-to-know-about-yemen-journalists-need-access-idUSKBN1A426N
11 The Independent, 18 August 17 ‘Saudi coalition killed hundreds of children in Yemen, confidential UN report claims’ http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/un-saudi-arabia-military-operations-yemen-children-civilian-deaths-report-uk-us-unacceptable-a7900966.html
14 Reuters 10 November 17 ‘Yemen set to run out of fuel and vaccine in a month’ https://www.reuters.com/article/us-yemen-security-unicef/yemen-set-to-run-out-of-fuel-and-vaccine-in-a-month-unicef-idUSKBN1DA146
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