Human Rights

Yemen faces rising poverty, hunger, disease

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa

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Cholera patients receive treatment at a makeshift hospital in Sanaa. [Faisal Darem/Al-Mashareq]

As Yemen's war drags on, leaving rising levels of poverty, hunger and disease in its wake, the population is in increasingly urgent need of humanitarian assistance, local and international officials tell Al-Mashareq.

The civilian population is facing a severe shortage of food and medicine, amid an outbreak of cholera that has killed close to 1,000 people and sickened hundreds more, as overburdened health care facilities struggle to keep up.

Thousands of lives are at risk as access to the Red Sea port of al-Hodeida is threatened, with the Houthis (Ansarallah) controlling the port and impeding the arrival of aid and the port surrounded by Yemeni and coalition forces.

"Humanity is losing out to politics," UN humanitarian co-ordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said last week. "We are struggling because of the lack of resources. We need some action immediately."

The humanitarian situation in Yemen has become dire, Deputy Minister of Planning and International Co-operation Mohammed al-Masuri told Al-Mashareq.

"The famine threatens the majority of the population, according to international indicators," he said, adding that the health sector also has collapsed.

Shortfall in humanitarian aid

Yemen is in urgent need of aid, as less than 30% of the international aid pledged this year has been delivered, said UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)-Yemen public information officer Zaid al-Alaya.

"Yemen is facing a shortage of food aid, required by 17 million Yemenis, as 10 Yemeni provinces are on the brink of a famine," he told Al-Mashareq.

Because of the cholera outbreak, he said, the UN has had to divert funds originally allocated for food aid to efforts to fight the disease.

Meanwhile, "the mortality rate among people with chronic diseases has reached its highest level ever in recent days due to the lack of medicine", said Deputy Minister of Public Health and Population Nasser al-Arjali.

Those who suffer from chronic diseases such as renal failure, diabetes and cancer are having trouble obtaining the medicine they need as a direct result of the war, he told Al-Mashareq, adding that many require urgent intervention.

The halt in economic activity and the suspension of oil exports have led to a decline in state revenues and devaluation of the currency, economist Abdul Jalil Hassan told Al-Mashareq.

This has exacerbated the country's human suffering, he said.

Hassan noted that aid convoys arriving at al-Hodeidah port have been subject to delays and complications by the Houthi militias which control the port.

Houthis have been looting aid

The Houthis and their allies have been looting aid intended for civilians arriving at the ports under their control, Minister of Local Administration and head of the High Committee for Relief Abdul Raqeeb Saif Fateh told Al-Mashareq.

They have "detained and looted more than 63 relief ships provided by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) at al-Hodeidah and al-Salif ports", he said.

They also seized more than 550 relief convoys at the entrances of provinces under their control, aggravating the humanitarian situation and "creating direct or indirect obstacles" for humanitarian organisations, he added.

The militias have intervened in relief plans by directing aid to certain provinces, he said, describing this as "the biggest direct obstacle to relief efforts".

"The armed militias block relief items from certain entities," he said, including the King Salman Centre for Relief and Humanitarian Work and the UAE Red Crescent, in violation of international laws and resolutions.

Houthi-allied militias also have looted World Food Programme relief convoys, particularly those directed to Taiz province, he said.

"The armed militias also continue to attack relief convoys sent to al-Bayda, al-Mahwit and Hajjah," he said, noting that last week, the Houthis blew up three relief convoys en route to al-Bayda.

Meanwhile, part of the aid distributed by the Houthis and their allies in the provinces under their control does not reach its intended recipients, said Studies and Economic Media Centre chairman Mustafa Nasr.

"The de facto authority in these provinces controls the distribution of this aid in one way or another," Nasr said in a statement. "Some of this aid was discovered being sold on the black market."

"The Houthis’ control of the distribution of this aid will greatly reduce the amount of this aid, which is below the desired level to begin with," he said.

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Economy is important, and health is important. There no god but Allah!

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Under the war, the assistance must be with a neutral entity to be formed by the UN and the Security Council.

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