If it wasn’t clear by now, there is a full-fledged humanitarian crisis going on in Yemen.
Millions of people are facing severe shortages of food, water, medicine, and other basic supplies as conflict continues between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and rebels within the country fighting for control.
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Now, the United Nations is calling for a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting in order to allow civilians to leave their homes and gain access to protection and supplies.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen said in a statement that dozens of civilians have been killed in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a alone, and allowing aid workers to assist the population is immediately urgent to help hundreds of others who have been wounded.
“The streets of Sana’a have become battlegrounds and people are trapped in their homes, unable to move out in search of safety and medical care and to access basic supplies such as food, fuel and safe water,” McGoldrick said.
This request comes on the heels of a Dec. 2 statement from the UN asking for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to repeal their ban on commercial imports to the war-ravaged nation. Last month, the coalition enacted a closure on all air, sea, and land ports in Yemen, though it has since reopened access to select ports in recent days.
Commercial imports are still banned at these ports, however, and cities across Yemen are beginning to slowly shut down as fuel and water supplies run low.
“Urban water networks in seven cities have run out of fuel and now depend on humanitarian organizations to fill in the gap,” the UN statement read. “Other cities will shortly be in a similar situation if the blockade is not lifted, which would leave 11 million people without safe water.”
Hospitals that run on fuel-powered generators are at risk of shutting down all over the country. Fuel-powered water systems are also shutting down, driving citizens to rely on purchasing bottled water, which has spiked in price by as much as 600 percent in some areas. Similarly, the price of fuel has risen between 70-90% as a result of the blockades.
The violent conflict and the resulting ban on imports has exacerbated a devastating famine across Yemen. The Dec. 2 statement also indicated that 8 million people could starve if import bans remain, including 400,000 children already suffering from acute malnutrition.
On top of famine and violence, Yemen is also experiencing one of the worst cholera epidemics in modern history. The World Health Organization estimated that almost 800,000 people were infected with the water-born illness as of early October, with numbers expected to rise dramatically as water and sewage systems continue to fail across the country. Over 2,000 Yemeni have died of the disease in the last six months, according to WHO.
Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which call for access to healthcare, education, and food security — all of which are lacking in Yemen due to conflict. You can take action on these issues here.
The impact of famine, disease, and conflict on the civilian population could all be dampened if commercial imports were allowed to deliver much needed supplies. Officials at the UN said the situation would get much worse before it got better if the import ban continued.
“This imminent catastrophe is entirely avoidable, but it requires immediate action by the coalition,” their statement read. “Without the urgent resumption of commercial imports, especially food, fuel and medicines, millions of children, women and men risk mass hunger, disease and death.”