The UN and NGOs received warnings over the weekend for staff to evacuate the vital port of Hodeida by today, Tuesday 12 June, affirming the humanitarian community’s worst fears for Yemen.
The UN peace envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has previously said that this attack would “take peace off the table in a single stroke,” and the UN has cited the worst case scenario: 250,000 dead, with hundreds of thousands more affected.
Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director Muhsin Siddiquey said, “It’s hard to imagine how life for the people of Yemen could get any more difficult, but an attack on Hodeida will bring more death, destruction and push vital resources like food, fuel and medicine even further out of reach,” he said.
“To avert catastrophe, we call on the international community, including the UN Security Council, to call for de-escalation and restraint, and to exert pressure and take action to ensure the parties keep Hodeida and Saleef ports open and uphold their obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilians.”
The people of Yemen have already had the lifelines of food, fuel and medicine blocked for years, but the offensive on Hodeida will massively escalate this humanitarian crisis while millions are already on the brink of famine.
Oxfam is hearing from local NGOs that there has been a dramatic increase in families forced to leave their homes in the last couple of days. Truck drivers are too frightened to enter Hodeida to move vital food and supplies, and businesses are closing, leaving civilians in the war path without basic supplies. The fact that this attack would happen during Ramadan makes it even more difficult for families to prepare.
Mr Siddiquey said even with these warnings, the escalation of the conflict was not a foregone conclusion. “There is time for all parties to navigate a path to peace and save countless lives, and the international community must continue to stand up for this peace,” he said.
Oxfam Australia’s Head of Public Policy and Advocacy, Rachel Ball, said continued support was needed from donor governments to support the millions of people in need of water and food in Yemen, which was teetering on the brink of famine after more than three years of conflict.
“Essentials like food and water are scarce and Yemeni families are facing a daily struggle just to get hold of them,” Ms Ball said.
She said the Australian Government’s provision of AUD $3 million of humanitarian funding in 2018 was a welcome start to the year.
“This takes its total contribution to AUD $23 million since April 2017. Oxfam is calling on the Australian Government to continue to closely monitor the crisis, be prepared to commit additional funding and continue to use diplomatic channels to push for peace.”