During a briefing last Friday, the UN warned that millions more Yemeni civilians are expected to starve to death before year’s end as a result of a blockade imposed on the country by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. The Saudis’ unsuccessful bid to quash the Houthi-led resistance movement against Western and Saudi imperialism in Yemen has already claimed the lives of thousands of civilians and transformed the country into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis since the war began in 2015.
Mark Lowcock, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator, expressed his concern regarding the “recent decline of commercial food imports through the Red Sea ports” — adding that, if conditions do not improve, the number of Yemenis at the brink of starvation would rise from the current figure of 8.4 million to 18.4 million by this December. Given that there are approximately 28 million people in Yemen, a continuation of the Saudi-led blockade would mean that nearly two-thirds of the entire country’s population will soon face starvation.
The U.N.’s warning of a growing famine in Yemen comes during the holy month of Ramadan, when the first revelation of the Quran is celebrated by Muslims through fasting. Given the number of Yemenis facing starvation, many Yemeni Muslims will be without food to break their fast.
While the coalition — composed of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, with support from other Gulf monarchies and Western governments — has publicly claimed that it has lifted the blockade after international pressure, the coalition’s “ship inspections” continue to prevent critical supplies – such as food, fuel and medicine – from entering the most populated portions of the country, which remain under Houthi control.
Lowcock stated that the “lifting” of the blockade has had little impact on the crisis, noting that imports are “well short of pre-blockade averages” and are insufficient to prevent the mass starvation of Yemeni civilians. In addition, the blockade has prevented sufficient medicine from entering the country — allowing the worst cholera epidemic in recent history to ravage Yemen, even though cholera is easily treated with inexpensive medication.
The UN’s dire warning regarding the situation in Yemen, undoubtedly the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, comes just as the Saudi-led coalition, with support from the United States and the United Kingdom, is preparing for an assault on the key Yemeni port of Hodeidah. On Monday, a coalition spokesman announced that its forces were within 20 km from the Houthi-held port, which has long been a key coalition target. The UN and other groups have long warned that any assault on Hodeidah would drastically worsen the crisis and greatly increase the number of Yemenis facing starvation.