The people of Yemen suffer man-made starvation. According to UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, 14 million people are now at risk of famine. Of a population of 29 million, more than 22 million are in need of humanitarian assistance, and nearly half of children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
Red Sea ports, notably that of Hudaydah, have been subject to recurring blockades, searches, and restrictions by Saudi-led coalition forces. Hudaydah is by far the most important port in Yemen which prior to the war received 70-80% of imported food supplies.
Delays, fear of attacks, and general uncertainty have deterred many commercial vessels from docking in Hudaydah. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that in November 2018 food shipments decreased by 50% as many commercial ships did not dock there due to fighting. At the port, vessels confront a lack of basic services: coalition airstrikes destroyed cranes used to lift containers off ships, and the severe fuel shortage results in delays to transport shipments within Yemen. WFP, for example, currently holds 58,434 tonnes of cereals in silos in Hudaydah but is unable to access 51,000 tonnes of those stocks. Delivery of humanitarian assistance has also been obstructed within the country by the de facto powers in Sanaa (the Ansarallah and allied forces) through excessive bureaucratic procedures, attempts to control the delivery of aid, interference as to who receives it, and toleration of bribery.
Coalition airstrikes have systematically targeted agricultural land, poultry farms, extension services, food processing plants, rural markets, fishing boats, and small ports. By the end of 2017, nearly every fish-offloading port on the Red Sea coast had been struck, with 220 fishing boats destroyed and 146 fishermen killed. Agricultural land and infrastructure have been heavily targeted. This has been devastating to Yemen, a country where before the war, 73% of the population relied on fishing and agriculture for their livelihoods.
Bearing in mind International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and Article 54 of Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions that states:
- Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited, and,
- It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive,
and Article 70 of Protocol I Additional:
The Parties to the conflict and each High Contracting Party shall allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel provided in accordance with this Section, even if such assistance is destined for the civilian population of the adverse Party,
- An end to all delays and obstructions impeding delivery of humanitarian aid (both in-cash and in-kind), and a firm guarantee that ports will remain operational and free from attack;
- An immediate end to military operations, especially targeting of essential food and agriculture infrastructure, including fishing vessels and markets;
- Resumption of payment of salaries to government employees suspended for the last two years and support for the Yemeni Riyal through a professionally managed central
- Mobilization of funds for humanitarian assistance and recovery programmes to help Yemenis to rebuild their millennial systems of food production;
- Support for efforts to build national dialogue and to formulate a peace agreement that respects Yemeni sovereignty.
We welcome the peace negotiations convened by UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths. These can only bear fruit if the causes of today’s imminent famine conditions are brought to an end.
To that end, we call upon members of the international community, particularly the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Australia, Spain, Brazil, and Finland, to halt forthwith all arms sales to parties in this conflict.
We urge countries, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, and Sudan to terminate their military engagement and to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
In spite of the repeated calls by civil society organisations over the years of the war, the suffering in Yemen has grown. We hereby renew the call to the international community to halt the starvation of the Yemeni people. ###