Already deemed on the “brink of famine” by the United Nations, Yemen is being pushed into greater threat of widespread and long-term hunger and casualties, due to the use of unauthorized landmines by Houthi-Saleh rebels and the bombing fears of a key port by the Saudi-led coalition, the U.N. and Human Rights Watch warned this week.
An estimated 17 million Yemeni are already food insecure, according to the World Food Programme, with the situation continuing to deteriorate and no end in sight to the country’s civil war.
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The U.N. called on the Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen to avoid bombing the rebel-held port of Hodeidah, a key entry point for international aid, early Thursday.
Jamie McGoldrick, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, called Hodeidah a vital lifeline for Yemeni civilians threatened by starvation, during a press conference in Jordan. He said the intervention against Shiite rebels two years ago should have been greater consideration to humanitarian concerns while pursuing its campaign.
“We continue to advocate to the Saudi-led coalition that the attack on the port of Hodeidah and the city itself is not necessary,” McGoldrick told reporters.
Also on Thursday, Human Rights Watch issued a press release stating that Houthi-Saleh rebels, who are allied with Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have used landmines in at least six provinces since March 2015, when the military campaign against them began. The Saudi-led coalition hopes to restore the internationally-recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The use of landmines have residual complications that can last years or decades after mines have been laid, with severe implications for food security.
After violence ceases, landmines remain sprinkled in agriculture-producing fields, stunting output. The physical disabilities of those who endure an explosion can also restrict farming capacities.
“The Houthi-Saleh forces’ use of banned landmines is only going to prolong Yemen’s eventual recovery from this bloody conflict,” Steve Goose, director of Arms Division at HRW said.
Already, the WFP estimates that two-thirds of Yemen’s population lack access to major food groups, including pulses, fruits, vegetables, meat or dairy.
The U.N. has experienced a dangerously slow response to a $4.4 billion funding appeal to the food insecurity and famine crises that span Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria. Some development experts are now questioning the strategy of linking together four disparate emergencies.
The warnings about Yemen come as the U.N. cautioned last week that they have not received enough funding to respond to food insecurity crises in three other African countries — Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan, where famine has been declared. So far, it has brought in approximately 20 percent of the $4.4 billion sought by the end of March to assist 25 million people in urgent need.
Humanitarian organizations are also blaming forces aligned with Saudi Arabia for atrocities in Yemen, including recent attacks against hospitals and doctors.
Save the Children and Watchlist are requesting that the U.N. add Saudi Arabia to the 2017 list of children’s right violators for their presumed role in an attack on a Médecins Sans Frontières-run hospital in the coastal city of Hajjah last August.
The groups recently released a report illustrating how attacks on hospitals and doctors are affecting children in the country.
According to information from the International Committee of the Red Cross, which was included in the report, more than 160 attacks against medical facilities and personnel have been carried out by both sides within the past two years.
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