In Yemen, conflict, crop failures, and disease outbreak have all contributed to what the United Nations (UN) is calling the “largest humanitarian crisis today.

Seventeen million people are suffering from severe food security.

Seven million of them are on the brink of famine.

And over 700,000 cases of cholera have been reported as of September of 2017.

Now, the UN is warning that a recent decision by a Saudi-led coalition to completely close off Yemeni borders could be “catastrophic” for a country that imports up to 90% of its daily needs.

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Read More: UN Responds to Global Citizens And Brings Justice to Children of Yemen

For years, Yemen has been engaged in a violent conflict between local Shiite rebels — backed by Iran— and the government, supported by Saudi Arabia and a larger military coalition. Last week, rebels targeted the Saudi capital of Riyadh with a ballistic missile, leading to accusations that Iran was supplying the rebels with weapons.

Though Iran denied these charges, the Saudi-coalition decided to close down air, sea, and land ports into Yemen in hopes of severing perceived weapons flows.

Unfortunately for the citizens of Yemen, these closures also mean that humanitarian workers and supplies will be prevented from entering the country, leaving a vulnerable population cut off from desperately needed assistance.

“Humanitarian operations are being blocked as a result of the closure order ordered by the Saudi-led coalition,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “Movement is also restricted. UN humanitarian flights to and from Yemen have been on hold.”

Though Yemen is far from the only country where armed conflict threatens the security and well-being of its citizens, the poorest Middle Eastern state is one of the worst affected.

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Since January of 2010 the UN reports that over 2.9 million Yemeni have been internally displaced because of conflict and natural disasters, and it is reported that 20.7 million people rely on humanitarian assistance. Instability due to conflict, coupled with drought, led to a dramatic decrease in agricultural outputs over the last few years, reducing available food and dampening economic prospects.

By 2016 the UN also reported that over 15 million people lacked access to clean water and sanitation in the region, representing an eight-percent increase since the escalation of conflict in 2014.

Read More: Health Officials Pledge to End Deaths from Cholera, ‘Disease of the Poor’

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.

Existing poverty, hunger, and social and economic inequalities are exacerbated by armed conflict. It is critical that long-term solutions aimed at ensuring peace address the underlying instability that often breeds violence in the first place.

In the short term, millions of Yemeni civilians are in severe need of immediate humanitarian assistance now threatened by the border closures.

Laerke warned that continuing to deny the population aid could have devastating consequences.

“If these channels, these lifelines, are not kept open, it is catastrophic for people,” he said.


Demand Equity

Humanitarian Aid Was Just Blocked to the Country Facing the World’s Biggest Humanitarian Crisis

By Andrew McMaster