Most Americans would be horrified at the thought that U.S. policy is leading to the starvation for millions of innocent people.
YEMEN, where I was born, is currently the site of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Although I was educated and have lived in the U.S. for 35 years, the daily news brings ever more devastating concerns about the conditions under which my Yemeni family members, their neighbors and fellow citizens live.
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization states that 17 million people in Yemen, fully 62 percent of the total population, require food assistance. Seven million of those humans require immediate help and are at risk of famine. CNN has reported that by the end of the year, “Yemen will be in a state of full-blown famine.”
These horrifying statistics are not just the result of the war imposed on Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its allies, but are the result of a systematic strategy to starve the civilians of Yemen as a tactic of that war.
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Famine in Yemen is clearly man-made. Saudi Arabia has imposed a naval and air blockade on Yemen since March 2015, and purposefully restricts or delays ships with food, medicine and essential goods from reaching the ports, with the pretense of not allowing arms to go to Yemen.
Monthly food imports earlier this year showed that only 20 percent to 48 percent of the actual need was met. Over half of the ships destined for Yemen are held in the Saudi coalition areas and are not allowed to dock in Yemen, with delays in entering ports ranging from three to 85 days.
Two years ago, the Saudis destroyed the four large cranes in Hodediah, Yemen’s largest seaport, limiting the port’s capacity to unload ships. Although the World Food Program provided four mobile cranes to assist, the Saudis prevented their installation, diverting them to the neighboring country of the United Arab Emirates.
The same year, Wenzel Michalski, director of Human Rights Watch, Germany, stated, “The coalition-imposed blockade may amount to starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, a war crime.”
Famine is not the only life-threatening health concern in Yemen: Medicines are among the items that are blocked. As a result, hundreds of thousands of chronic patients cannot get the medicine they need.
With many family members still in Yemen, I have had to purchase medicine for them from the U.S. and ship at exorbitant prices, without guarantees of if or when it will arrive. Other times I have purchased medicine from Jordan or Lebanon and then sought potential travelers to Yemen who could take the medicine with them. And I am the lucky one. I have the means to buy and get the medicine to my family members, but that is not an option for most sick people with life-threatening illnesses.
Saudi Arabia must lift the blockade and allow the commercial flow of ships and airlines into Yemen unhindered. The United Nations and countries of the Western world, especially the U.S. and the U.K. that provide logistical and intelligence support in the Saudi war on Yemen, must demand a lifting of the blockade. If this cannot be done, no amount of aid in the world can save a nation of 27 million people from famine.
Most Americans would be horrified at the thought that American policy may be a direct cause of starvation for millions of innocent people. There are simple ways that we can demand that the blockade be lifted and that U.S. support for the Saudi war efforts be stopped.
• Just Foreign Policy has several petitions.
• The Friends Committee on National Legislation provides several simple ways we can help stop the atrocity.