You are here: UNA Twickenham & Richmond: Yemen: A Man Made Human Catastrophe

The UN has warned of a “Catastrophe “ for the people of Yemen as a result of the air, land and sea blockade by the Saudis, which is putting millions at risk. Yemen imports up to 90 per cent of its daily needs and seven million people are being kept alive by humanitarian aid.   “Humanitarian operations are being blocked as a result of the closure ordered by the Saudi-led coalition”, said Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The U.N. humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock  warned that unless the Saudi-led military coalition lifts its blockade on Yemen the war-torn nation will face "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims." He couldn't put a timeline on famine if the Saudi blockade isn't lifted, .. but it is inevitable”  He said, “Since the 6th  November, Riyadh has prevented aid agencies from landing planes in the country and docking at Yemen's ports, worsening an already dire humanitarian situation”.

“Seven million people are at threat of famine and well over half of the 26m Yemeni’s don’t know where they will get their next meal from” said former UN Humanitarian chief Sir Stephen O’Brien.  The 900,000 cholera cases are the worst the world has ever seen.  This is the World’s largest humanitarian crisis, and it is all completely avoidable.   Speaking on BBC  Radio4, he said  “There is not going to be a military solution to be fought to the end, the only solution to the crisis is a political solution, a compromise”.  He said that the UK was not being aggressive enough, given its position as a member of the permanent five at the UN Security Council, where, as such, it has  the biggest influence, to initiate and draw attention to action that Security Council can bring to bear to seek such a solution to end the suffering of the Yeminis .

He drew attention to the blockade (by the Saudis) of Hodeida port which is the main supply route for food and medical supplies into the poorest areas and it is where the only people with air power are the Saudi led coalition.   In 2015 Saudi aircraft bombed the port and destroyed cranes and warehouses.  The Saudis have been blocking the delivery of 4 replacement cranes, paid for by the US.

World Food Programme Director, David Beasley said, “if this port continues to be blocked literally hundreds of thousands of children will die and millions of people along with them”.  90% of cholera deaths and the worst cases of starvation are in Houthi controlled areas.  Hodeida is the only port in Houthi hands.

The deputy representative of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen, Sherin Varkey, told the BBC that the impact of the port closures on the country's already dire humanitarian situation could be devastating. With more than 2,000 people believed to have died as a result of a cholera outbreak since April, he says that the on-going blockade will undo the work done to curtail its spread.  At the peak of the outbreak, 6,000 to 7,000 cases were being treated every day. It had been brought down to around 3,500 before the blockade was tightened.  UNICEF also treats 27,000 children a month for severe and acute malnutrition, and with no aid deliveries stocks of nutrition supplies will run out within two months.  Dr Varkey said that would affect the treatment of approximately 400,000 children suffering from the life-threatening condition over the coming year.

As recently as the 17 November, the International Committee of the Red Cross have said  that as a result of the blockade, which has stopped imports of fuel and other essential goods, "The water and sewage systems in Hodeida, Sa'ada and Taiz (all major cities) stopped operating because of a lack of fuel".  As a result close to one million people are deprived of clean water and sanitation, leading to a renewed risk of cholera and other water-borne diseases.


  2. The Telegraph 9 November 17:
  3. CNN, ‘Saudi blockade pushing Yemen toward 'worst famine in decades' 9 November 17
  4. BBC4 Today 4 November 17
  5. Reuters: ‘Saudi-led warplanes hit Yemeni port, aid group sounds alarm’ 18 August 17
  6. BBC Our World: ‘Yemen _ Conflict and Cholera’ 19 October 17
  7. BBC World News 14 November 2017
  8. IRIC, 17th November 17,” Yemen: Border closure shuts down water, sewage systems, raising cholera risk”
  9. Reuters: ‘U.N. says world needs to know about Yemen, journalists need access’ July 19 17
  10. The Guardian 2 August 17
  11. The Independent, 18 August 17 ‘Saudi coalition killed hundreds of children in Yemen, confidential UN report claims’
  12. Human Rights Watch 11 July16  
  13. The Guardian