U.N. Official: Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis Could Be the Worst in 50 Years

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By DANIEL LARISON

The head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) describes the horrific conditions in Yemen:

People in war-torn Yemen are facing a situation that “looks like the Apocalypse”, the UN’s humanitarian chief has told Al Jazeera, warning that the country could become the worst humanitarian disaster in half a century [bold mine-DL].

The main causes of the catastrophe engulfing Yemen have not changed. Just as they have been since the spring of 2015, the Saudi-led war and blockade continue to devastate Yemen and starve its civilian population of essential goods. Conditions are much worse than they were a year ago, and they will continue to deteriorate if there are not immediate and drastic changes in allowing in commercial imports of food and medicine. For tens of thousands of Yemenis, it is already too late, but there are still millions who may still be preserved from senseless, preventable deaths from starvation and disease.

The coalition bombing campaign has wrecked infrastructure, deliberately and systematically targeted sources of food production and distribution, repeatedly struck inhabited areas with blatant disregard for civilian life, and frequently hit medical facilities that struggle to cope with the spread of preventable diseases made worse by the effects of the coalition blockade. More than eight million are on the verge of famine, and over twenty million require some humanitarian assistance. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis has been the worst in the world for years, but there has been no commensurate international response to meet the needs of over twenty million people. This has been going on in plain view of the rest of the world for almost three years, but the governments in a position to do the most about it are the ones most responsible for causing it, and that includes ours.

In addition to being caught up in an atrocious war, the civilian population of Yemen has had the misfortune of being kept mostly invisible to much of the world and their plight mostly ignored by the powerful states responsible for creating it. Occasionally, the governments responsible for creating the disaster have thrown a few crumbs to the people they starve and then hire publicists to boast about their generosity. The Saudis have done this recently with a public relations blitz to make it seem as if they are helping Yemen’s people instead of slowly and purposefully killing them. No amount of spin can change the reality that the coalition refuses to do the things necessary to alleviate the massive suffering of millions of Yemenis:

But the plan rejects calls by the UN to lift an on-off blockade of Hodeidah port, a vital lifeline for civilians in Ansarullah-held north: it proposes reducing the overall flow of cargo into the city and stepping up imports into coalition-controlled areas.

The Saudis and their allies aren’t interested in allowing essential food and medicines to reach the people that most need it. Indeed, the goal of their blockade all along has been to inflict as much economic pain as possible on the parts of the country their forces don’t occupy. That hasn’t changed, and until it does Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe will needlessly claim many more lives. Throughout all of this, the U.S. and other Western governments have provided unstinting support for the coalition war effort. Even now, our government continues to aid them in their wrecking and starvation of Yemen. If Yemen’s humanitarian crisis becomes the worst in half a century, it will be because the coalition governments and their Western patrons made it so.