Eighteen humanitarian agencies expressed serious concern today over the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition’s decision to temporarily close all entry points to Yemen, effectively sealing the country off. The agencies demand that humanitarian operations are allowed to resume immediately and request clarity on the planned duration of the current closure and contingencies to allow humanitarian supplies to be delivered.
On Monday, the Coalition ordered the temporary closure of all Yemeni ground, air and sea ports, amongst other measures, to address the inspection vulnerabilities according to its statement, while maintaining the entry and exit of humanitarian supplies and personnel. The statement didn’t, however, give any clarification of details on the closure’s duration, or how humanitarian assistance can be delivered.
Given the current acute food-security crisis and cholera epidemic, hours of delays to the restoration and expansion of humanitarian access will cost the lives of women, men, girls and boys across the whole of Yemen.
Johan Mooji, CARE Country Director said: "While we welcome the assurances of the Coalition who has vowed the continuation of access for humanitarian assistance and personnel, aid ships in Hodeida haven’t been allowed to off-load, and at least three United Nations Humanitarian Air Assistance flights have been denied approval since 6th November. We are deeply concerned as this has a direct impact on our ability to maintain life-saving assistance. Yemen is one step away from famine, cholera is rife and provision of public services continues to deteriorate.”
In less than a day, this blockade already hiked up fuel prices in some governorates by as much as 60%, as people scramble to stock up and led to disruption of public transportation. The closure of all sea and land ports means urgently-needed lifesaving medical supplies have ceased, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of people. This will also substantially reduce the amount of food coming in the country – already, 1,200 tons of UN food and medical supplies have been delayed going from Djibouti to Yemen. Any reduction in imports and increase in food prices will exacerbate the existing massive hunger crisis and widespread child malnutrition.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children Country Director said: “Supplies of food and medical aid coming though Yemen’s ports are keeping hundreds of thousands of children alive. It’s already been tough enough to get help in – we’ve been forced to rely on routes that are long and slow for years. But if access shuts off entirely, even for a single week, then disaster will be the result. This is the nightmare scenario, and children will likely die as a result. It is crucial that aid workers and vital supplies like food, medicine and fuel are permitted to enter Yemen freely and without delay, and all blocks are removed. Food and aid must not be used as weapons of war.”
In the absence of clarity and detail from the Coalition, worrying questions remain about the extent and duration of these measures and their expected impact on the civilian population. If this issue is not resolved immediately, we fear an already catastrophic humanitarian and economic crisis will get substantially worse.
Furthermore, the humanitarian sector alone cannot fulfil the needs of the civilian population in Yemen as we cannot replace the commercial sector’s ability to supply essential goods to the Yemeni people.
Shane Stevenson, Oxfam Country Director “The Coalition needs to immediately clarify the measures it has taken and provide information to ensure that aid deliveries to Yemen and humanitarian access aren’t impacted in any way. It is vital that amid the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 21 million people in need of assistance, that aid is not delayed or impeded for another hour.”