Global donors have appealed for the immediate lifting of blockades in Yemen, saying millions of lives are at risk as essential supplies such as food and medicines are running out in the war torn region.
The World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and World Food Programme, WFP, in a joint press statement issued on Thursday urged for the opening of the seaports and borders to allow donors gain access because more than 20 million people, including over 11 million children, are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
According to the health agencies, at least 14.8 million are without basic healthcare and an outbreak of cholera has resulted in more than 900,000 suspected cases.
UN-chartered ships have not been able to enter into the country to deliver the vital humanitarian cargo that the population needs to survive.
”Flights from the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service – into and out of Yemen – are not given clearance to resume and the UN staff based in Yemen have been unable to move, even if they need urgent medical attention”, the statement said.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, and WFP Executive Director David Beasley said while the Saudi-led military coalition has partially lifted the recent blockade in Yemen, closure of much of the country’s air, sea and land ports is making an already catastrophic situation far worse.
The heads of the agencies appealed that all of the country’s ports including those in areas held by the opposition – should be reopened without delay.
“The space and access we need to deliver humanitarian assistance is being choked off, threatening the lives of millions of vulnerable children and families. The clock is ticking and stocks of medical, food and other humanitarian supplies are already running low. The cost of this blockade is being measured in the number of lives that are lost.
“In Yemen we are talking about hundreds of thousands of children, if not more. We have the lifesaving food, medicine and supplies needed to save them, but we must have the access that is currently being denied”, the statement said.
“Together, we issue another urgent appeal for the coalition to permit entry of lifesaving supplies to Yemen in response to what is now the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The supplies, which include medicines, vaccines and food, are essential to staving off disease and starvation. Without them, untold thousands of innocent victims, among them many children, will die.”
Mr. Beasley also added that some ”17 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and 7 million are totally dependent on food assistance.”
The World Food Programme estimates that even with a partial lifting of the blockade, an additional 3.2 million people will be pushed into hunger if left untreated and 150,000 malnourished children could die within the coming months.
Mr. Beasley said to deprive this many from the basic means of survival is ”an unconscionable act and a violation of humanitarian principles and law.”
Mr.Ghebreyesus said the situation was dire.
“Without fuel, the vaccine cold chain, water supply systems and waste water treatment, plants will stop functioning. And without food and safe water, the threat of famine grows by the day. We are already seeing the humanitarian consequences of the blockade. Diphtheria is spreading fast with 120 clinically diagnosed cases and 14 deaths – mostly children – in the last weeks. We have vaccines and medicines in transit to Yemen, but they are blocked from entry. At least one million children are now at risk of contracting the disease.”