This photo shows Amal who is looking at her destroyed home in Sana’a after it was hit by an airstrike in April 2015. A girl looks at her destroyed home in Sana’a, Yemen. © UNICEF/UN018341/Jahaf

The UN’s Nightmare Scenario is Now Unfolding in Yemen

UPDATE: The Saudi-led coalition has launched a major attack on the crucial port city of Hodeidah. The UN and humanitarian agencies have warned for months that an attack on this port could disrupt food supplies throughout the country and put 250,000 lives at risk. Much of Yemen was already on the brink of famine. With this attack, there is increased likelihood that child mortality rates increase past the famine threshold.

The UN’s nightmare scenario for Yemen might soon unfold.

This statement from the Yemen country director of Mercy Corps, which runs operations in Yemen, sums up the feelings of the humanitarian community

“As of today, Yemen has lost the lifeline that delivered 70 percent of its food and aid supplies. Eight million people stand on the brink of starvation and will no longer have access to their main source of food.

“Whatever the strategic or political gains that might be won by taking or holding Hodeida, these will be eclipsed by the suffering, misery and needless loss of life that will be paid by the Yemeni people. There can be no winner in this conflict.

“Now that fighting has begun, all we can do is prepare for the worst.” 

Original post below. 

With the World Distracted By the Trump-Kim Summit, Yemen’s Last Lifeline is Under Imminent Attack

All eyes are in Singapore, where Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un met in a legitimately historical summit. But halfway across the world, belligerents seem to be using this moment of international distraction to carry out a long planned assault on a Port in Yemen through which most humanitarian aid and food is imported.

Forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are backed by the United States in the Yemen civil war, are positioned to attack Hodeidah. The UN and the International Committee for the Red Cross have pulled their staff from the port city, which is controlled by forces aligned with the Houthi rebels groups. (The US-backed Saudi-led coalition is backing the internationally recognized government of Yemen, which is seeking to regain control of this strategic port.)

The UN and international aid groups have been warning for months that an attack on Hodeidah would be absolutely catastrophic. This is the only operational port in the entire country in which shipping containers can be offloaded. Some 75% of population of Yemen relies on food aid, 80% of which comes through that single port. UN officials warn that an attack that disrupts operations at this port could cause more than a quarter of a million civilians deaths.

A year ago, as another attack seemed imminent, I spoke with Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group about the consequences of an attack on Hodeihah.  He warned it could plunge the country into famine.

We are now nearing one of the most dire inflection points of this terrible conflict.  The one thing that could stop this attack is a diplomatic intervention by the United States.

So far, the US has backed the Saudi-led campaign though enabling military capacities, like mid-air refueling for Saudi bombers. Members of Congress from both parties are seeking to condition that assistance on more strident human rights criteria.

But now, with an attack imminent, it seems only the Trump administration has the ability to press its Middle Eastern allies to hold back on this assault. Whether or not they choose to exercise that power remains to be seen.  At the Security Council yesterday, Kuwait (a member of the Saudi-led coalition) blocked the issuance of a unanimous statement calling for restraint. The US did not, apparently, approach the issue with much urgency.

What we do know is that if this assault occurs, a country already beset by humanitarian catastrophe will enter into a deeply painful emergency that will likely lead to a famine that kills several thousand people.