In response to a missile launched by Houthi rebels, the Saudi-led coalition has imposed a sea, land and air blockade on Yemen. Saudi pledge to allow entry to food and medicines has not yet been upheld. For the UN, the country faces the world’s biggest famine with the possibility of millions of victims. For MSF, humanitarian aid is crucial.
Sana'a (AsiaNews) – In a note to AsiaNews, international humanitarian NGO Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that the closure of the border with Yemen four days ago is “hindering the organisation’s ability to provide life-saving medical and humanitarian assistance to a population already in dire need.”
In view of this, MSF has called on “the Saudi-led coalition to immediately allow unhindered access to and within Yemen so that humanitarian assistance can reach those most in need.”
At present, the Arab country faces the largest famine in the world, and the Saudi-led coalition has not upheld its pledge to allow “the entry and exit of humanitarian supplies and crews”.
A few days ago, the Saudi-led coalition imposed a land, air and sea blockade after a missile against Riyadh’s international airport. Saudi missile defences intercepted the missile in flight, but some fragments fell inside the airport area.
For the Saudi government, the blockade is needed to prevent Iran from supplying weapons to the country’s Houthi rebels.
The measure is part of an all-out battle by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman against Iran, one that could spread from Syria and Yemen and inflame the whole Middle East.
After briefing the UN Security Council, Mark Lowcock, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said that he told the Council “that unless those measures are lifted. . . there will be a famine in Yemen.” If it happens, “It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims.”
Yemen imports almost everything, from food and fuel to medicines, for the population to survive.
The Red Cross said its shipment of chlorine tablets, vital to combating a cholera epidemic that has affected more than 900,000 people, had been blocked. This greatly worries MSF as well.
“For the last three days, the Saudi-led coalition has not allowed MSF to fly from Djibouti to Sana’a or Aden, despite continued requests for authorisation of our flights”, said Justin Armstrong, MSF Head of Mission in Yemen.
“The broader impact of this blockade on the men, women and children of Yemen is already evident and puts hundreds of thousands of lives at risk”, Armstrong added.
“Fuel prices have skyrocketed in major centres, supplies of diesel and cooking gas are becoming scarce, and shipments of essential medicines are stuck at border crossings. The already devastated Yemeni economy will undoubtedly decline further, making it more and more difficult for Yemenis to meet their basic needs, which is why humanitarian assistance is so vital.”
The crisis began in January 2015, when brutal fighting broke out between the country’s Sunni-led government of ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, supported by Saudi Arabia, and Shia Houthi rebels, backed by Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led Arab coalition began air strikes against Houthi rebels, which the United Nations criticised for causing countless victims, many of them civilians and children.
In fact, according to UN sources, at least 9,000 people have died so far, 60 per cent civilian, with 45,000 wounded.
Out of a total population of 28 million, up to 18.8 million are in need of direct assistance and humanitarian aid to survive.
At present, at least seven million are on the brink of starvation, including 2.3 million malnourished children under five. (DS)