12 days since land, air and seaports in Yemen were closed, Oxfam and 13 other aid agencies are appalled by the complacency and indifference of the international community regarding the historic humanitarian disaster now unfolding.
Disease is a major threat, with a new outbreak of cholera and other water borne diseases on the rise, and UNICEF warns that they only have 15 days’ left of diphtheria vaccines. They are due to receive a new shipment in late November but still have not received clearance. If this vaccine is not brought in, one million children will be at risk of preventable diseases.
The fuel shortage is another major threat - clean water in the country is more and more scarce without fuel to power water pumps and water networks are closing by the day as fuel for the pumps runs out and pipes run dry. The lack of water poses grave risks to young children most of all. Schools will become centers of disease rather than centers of knowledge. With no fuel, hospitals are closing wards and struggling to operate intensive care units and surgical operation theaters. Refrigeration units for essential medicines are being turned off for periods of time to save fuel. Doctors, some of whom have not been paid for ten months, are asking INGOs and UN to share their small supplies of fuel to run their life-saving generators; many INGOs say they only have one month of fuel left.
In response to this deteriorating situation, Oxfam and others are starting to double the amount of the cash distributions given to the most vulnerable people. This will help people to buy and store food for the coming cold winter months before prices rise beyond their means.
The country’s stocks of wheat and sugar will not last for longer than three months if cargo vessels are not allowed to discharge in Hodeidah, the country’s only deep water seaport, in the next few days. Even if they are allowed now, food distribution systems have been severely disrupted and may collapse within weeks. Moreover, having incurred so many additional costs and in a highly volatile environment, international traders may decide that importing to Yemen is too risky.
Oxfam and others are calling on the international community to break its silence and use all possible means to lift the blockade on Yemen immediately. Hodeidah port, that serviced 80% of all imports, and Sana’a airport, needs to be reopened to let in urgently needed shipments of food, fuel, and medicines.
Every day the blockade lasts means thousands of Yemenis will suffer from hunger and preventable diseases. Millions could die in a historic famine if the blockade continues indefinitely. The choice is between meaningful and urgent action, or complicity in the suffering; there is no third option.
Notes to editors
Agencies who have signed:
- Handicap International
- International Rescue Committee
- Medecins Du Monde
- Mercy Corps
- Relief International
- World Relief Germany