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With 14 million people at risk of famine in Yemen, IRC calls for immediate ceasefire around port city of Hodeidah 

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Last week the US Government, backed by the UK and other European states, called for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen. However, in the days since, the Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition has escalated its offensive on Houthi controlled territory, most notably around Hodeidah, putting millions of Yemeni lives at risk. 

Frank McManus, International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) Country Director in Yemen, said: “Calls for a cessation of hostilities have not changed the reality on the ground. In fact, the situation is deteriorating. In the short time since Secretary Pompeo called for a ceasefire, we have seen over a hundred airstrikes hitting Hodeidah and Coalition-supported ground forces fighting their way into the city. Ordinary Yemenis are suffering and dying as the parties to the conflict try to strengthen their positions. But the truth is, increased fighting only pushes sustainable peace further away. And the silence from their international backers is deafening." 

A year ago this week the Coalition began its blockade of Yemen’s Red Sea ports. The impact on Yemen’s economy and population was disastrous and set Yemen on the road to the humanitarian crisis we see today. 

Now, 14 million people could be at risk of starvation - half of all Yemenis. Hodeidah port remains the country’s lifeline — the only entry point able to manage the food needed to avert the preventable deaths of millions of Yemenis. Any damage to Hodeidah port, or delays in the distribution of food due to fighting, will be catastrophic. 

With the situation in Yemen growing more desperate by the day there is no excuse for inertia. The international community has warned the Coalition of the risks of attacking Hodeidah on numerous occasions. Now it must find its voice again to condemn this assault and turn words of support for a cessation of hostilities into meaningful diplomatic pressure. 

An immediate nationwide cessation of hostilities must be codified in a new UN Security Council resolution to halt the fighting and allow the humanitarian response to take hold. In addition, all seaports and Sana’a airport should be opened and fully operational for humanitarian and commercial traffic. Vital civil servant salary payments must resume. 

Significant diplomatic pressure will be needed if these agreements are to be honoured. The US and UK should end diplomatic and military support to the Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition. Otherwise, these nations must be ready to accept their responsibility for the suffering and death of millions of Yemeni men, women, and children.

Frank McManus added: “History will judge those who could have acted to prevent the looming tragedy in Yemen, but failed to do so. How many times in the last 50 years has the phrase “never again” been uttered only when it was too late to do anything? In the case of Yemen, the US and the UK government have the means to operationalize a ceasefire and save lives. Yemen can’t wait any longer.” 

Learn more about the IRC’s work in Yemen, here

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 28 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.