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UN: Saudi Blockade of Yemen's Ports Causing Humanitarian Catastrophe

  • Lisa Schlein

Women wait to fill up cooking gas cylinders outside a gas station amid supply shortage in Sanaa, Yemen, Nov. 7, 2017.

The United Nations is calling for an immediate halt to the Saudi Arabian coalition's blockade of life-saving commercial goods into Yemen. The coalition closed all land, sea and air ports in Yemen following a ballistic missile launch by Yemen's Houthi rebels near Saudi Arabia's capital, Riyadh, Saturday.

The United Nations reports humanitarian operations in Yemen are blocked because of the port closures. U.N. Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Spokesman Jens Laerke said food, medicine and fuel are not allowed to enter Yemen, making life more difficult for millions of people in this war-torn country.

For example, he reported that fuel prices have jumped 60 percent overnight in some parts of the country. He said the price of cooking gas has doubled and long lines of cars are queuing at gas stations.

"We are very concerned about the likely rapid negative impact of the closure of Yemen entry points on the already dire humanitarian situation in the country where seven million people are fighting against famine-like conditions... and rely completely on humanitarian aid to survive," he said.

If the supply pipeline comes to a halt, Laerke warned food insecurity will deepen and Yemen will be facing a greater humanitarian crisis.

"Between 80 and 90 percent of food imports are coming in through these ports prior to the crisis," he added. "If these channels — these lifelines — are not kept open, it is catastrophic for people who already, in what we have already labelled the world's worst humanitarian crisis at the moment."

The Saudi Arabian coalition began an intensive campaign of air strikes against the Houthi rebels in support of the Yemeni government in March 2015. Since then, the United Nations reports more than 14,000 civilian casualties. These include nearly 5,300 people killed and almost 8,900 injured.

The United Nations adds the actual number of civilian deaths and injuries is likely to be far higher.

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