GENEVA - The United Nations is calling for the permanent re-opening of all of Yemen’s sea ports to allow vital, life-saving humanitarian and commercial cargo to enter.
The Saudi-led coalition partially lifted its blockade of Yemen’s sea ports on December 20. Since then, the U.N. reports 13 vessels have delivered food and much needed fuel to the war-torn country through the Red Sea ports of Hudaydah and Saleef.
The U.N. welcomes this as a constructive step. But, the spokesman for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, says it is not enough. He noted Yemen imports about 90 percent of its staple food and nearly all its fuel and medicine.
“We call on the Coalition to continue allowing vessels into the Red Sea ports, and also for the Houthis (Iran-backed rebel group) to desist from threatening this vital access route. The steady flow of imports is a lifeline for millions of vulnerable Yemeni people,” Laerke said.
Saudi Arabia imposed a total blockade on Yemen’s air and sea ports on November 6 in retaliation for a Houthi ballistic missile attack near the capital’s Riyadh airport.
The United Nations considers Yemen one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. It says 22 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance, with nearly eight million on the brink of famine. Laerke told VOA the Yemen crisis is a manmade disaster.
“When we talk about 22 million people, that is almost the entirety of the population. Then, it is critical, I think, to understand that it is manmade and we need a political solution and we welcome any and all efforts to find such a solution. In the meantime … it is critical that these ports are kept open,” Laerke said.
The Saudi-led coalition entered Yemen’s conflict in support of the country’s government in March 2015. Since then, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed and over 40,000 injured. The U.N. and other human rights groups blame most of these casualties on the coalition’s aerial and ground campaign against the Houthi rebels.