By Fatih Erel
The UN and 22 aid agencies on Thursday asked the Saudi-led coalition to end the blockade in Yemen and warned that the blockade would bring millions of people closer to "starvation and death" in the Middle Eastern country.
"The humanitarian community in Yemen is greatly alarmed at the decision by the Saudi-led Coalition [SLC] to closure all of Yemeni airports, seaports and land crossings which is preventing critical humanitarian aid deliveries and commercial supplies from reaching the country and the movement of aid workers in and out of Yemen," the agencies said in a statement.
Noting the “extremely fragile” humanitarian situation in Yemen, the organizations called for the "immediate opening of all air and seaports to ensure food, fuel and medicines can enter the country".
"We ask the Saudi-led Coalition to facilitate unhindered access of aid workers to people in need, in compliance with international law, by ensuring the resumption of all humanitarian flights," the aid groups said.
According to the UN, there are over 20 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Yemen; seven million of them, are facing famine-like conditions and rely completely on food aid to survive.
"In six weeks, the food supplies to feed them will be exhausted. Over 2.2 million children are malnourished, of those, 385,000 children suffer from severe malnutrition and require therapeutic treatment to stay alive," the statement said.
Noting that the current stock of vaccines in the country will only last one month, the organizations said: "If it is not replenished, outbreaks of communicable diseases such as polio and measles are to be expected with fatal consequences, particularly for children under five years of age and those already suffering from malnutrition."
Indicating that the people of Yemen have already been living with the "catastrophic" consequences of an armed conflict, the agencies added: "Any further shocks to imports of food and fuel may reverse recent success in mitigating the threat of famine and the spread of cholera."
On Wednesday, a senior UN aid official said Yemen could face “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims,” if the Saudi-led Coalition did not lift a blockade on the war-torn country.
Speaking to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in Yemen behind closed doors, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock warned the coalition about refusing to allow humanitarian aid to Yemen.
On Monday, in response to the weekend missile attack on Riyadh by Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia decided to close all of Yemen's air and sea ports, stunting humanitarian relief operations in the country.
A Saudi-led offensive, which began in 2015, targeted pushing back Houthi advances but has been dogged by widespread allegations of international law violations.
Since March 2015, almost 5,300 civilians have been killed and close to 9,000 injured in Yemen’s war; the UN has warned that "the actual numbers were likely to be far higher".