Death looms amid Yemen block­ade

Aid groups say seven mil­lion face ‘famine-like’ con­di­tions, urge open­ing of air, sea­ports

Toronto Star - - WORLD - AHMED AL-HAJ

SANAA, YEMEN— The United Na­tions and more than 20 aid groups said Thurs­day that the Saudi-led coali­tion’s tight­en­ing of a block­ade on war-torn Yemen could bring mil­lions of peo­ple closer to “star­va­tion and death.” The an­nounce­ment comes a day after the UN’s hu­man­i­tar­ian chief warned that un­less the coali­tion lifts its block­ade, the na­tion will face “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with mil­lions of vic­tims.”

About two-thirds of Yemen’s pop­u­la­tion re­lies on im­ported sup­plies, said the aid groups, which in­clude CARE, Save the Chil­dren and Is­lamic Re­lief. Over 20 mil­lion peo­ple need hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, in­clud­ing seven mil­lion fac­ing “famine-like” con­di­tions, they said. Food sup­plies are ex­pected to run out within six weeks while vac­cines will last only a month.

They urged an “im­me­di­ate open­ing” of all air and sea­ports.

“If I have to compare Yemen to a per­son, I would say that this per­son is very sick, this per­son is very weak­ened, and is be­ing drip-fed, so if you want to keep the pa­tient alive, we need to re­ac­ti­vate drip-feed­ing as soon as pos­si­ble,” In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross re­gional di­rec­tor for the Near and Mid­dle East Robert Mar­dini told The As­so­ci­ated Press on Wed­nes­day.

The block­ade has led to a fuel cri­sis in the rebel-held cap­i­tal, Sanaa, where cars lined the roads after the Houthis or­dered the clo­sure of fuel sta­tions. The rebels said they closed the sta­tions after mer­chants re­fused to fix prices. The price of fuel has risen by 50 per cent since the coali­tion tight­ened the block­ade.

Mark Low­cock told re­porters after brief­ing the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Wed­nes­day that there must be an im­me­di­ate re­sump­tion of reg­u­lar air flights to the cities of Aden and Sanaa by the UN and its hu­man­i­tar­ian part­ners. “What we need to see is a re­duc­tion of block­ages on all sides, not an in­crease on them,” he said.

The coali­tion closed all ports and halted hu­man­i­tar­ian ship­ments after Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a bal­lis­tic mis­sile over the week­end that was in­ter­cepted near Riyadh.

ABDO HYDER/AFP/GETTY IM­AGES FILE PHOTO

About two-thirds of Yemen’s pop­u­la­tion re­lies on im­ported sup­plies, aid groups say. Food sup­plies are ex­pected to run out within six weeks.

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