Nearly 20 humanitarian agencies on Wednesday warned of a “nightmare scenario” after the Saudi-led coalition blocked off all entry points to Yemen, a decision that cuts off life-saving aid and compounds the catastrophe in the war-ravaged country.
“Yemen is the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 21 million people in desperate need of assistance,” said Shane Stevenson, country director for Oxfam. “To prevent more lives from being lost and the needless suffering of millions, it is vital that aid is not delayed or impeded another hour.”
The Saudi coalition—which, with assistance from the U.S., has been waging a military campaign against Houthi forces—announced the closure of all Yemen’s air, land, and sea ports on Monday after the kingdom intercepted a missile launched by Houthi rebels.
Yemen is in the grips of the fastest-growing cholera epidemic on the books, is facing the world’s worst food crisis, and has seen its health infrastructure decimated by the ongoing conflict.
The International Rescue Committee, which is among the signatories to the statement, offers key figures to describe why outside aid is so key:
The coalition stated that humanitarian supplies would be let in, but reports from aid agencies indicate that is not the case.
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“While we welcome the assurances of the coalition which 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,” said Johan Mooij, CARE country director.
“Yemen is one step away from famine, cholera is rife, and provision of public services continues to deteriorate,” he added.
Lifting the blockade, say the groups, is a matter of life-or-death.
“Supplies of food and medical aid coming though Yemen’s ports are keeping millions of children alive,” said Tamer Kirolos, country director for Save the Children. “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,” Kirolos added.
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The United Nations on Tuesday also called for the blockade to be lifted, describing Yemen’s situation as “catastrophic.”