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Press Release

Yemen: imminent attack on port city will lead to catastrophic humanitarian disaster

As the Saudi-led coalition (SLC) in Yemen moves in on Hodeidah, the IRC calls on the UAE and Saudi Arabia to refrain from any attack or besiegement of the port city.

  • Recent moves by the SLC in Yemen indicate an imminent attack on Yemen’s main port Hodeidah, where 90% of Yemen’s imports enter the country
  • Considered the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, an attack would worsen the already dire situation in Yemen, which faces a near-famine with 17 million people food insecure
  • 400,000 innocent civilian residents of Hodeidah, including IRC staff on the ground implementing life-saving work, are in immediate danger

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is alarmed that fighting between warring parties in Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah appears to be only days away. The city and its residents are running out of time and cannot afford to wait for a country wide solution. The IRC calls on all parties to the conflict to ensure the port remains operational and innocent lives are spared.

Yemen’s civil war, considered the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, is now in its fourth year and shows no sign of abating. More than 22 million innocent Yemeni civilians are in need of humanitarian aid and 17 million people are food insecure. The country relies on the port of Hodeidah for 90% of its imports and for critical, life-saving aid. An attack or besiegement of the port, and on its 400,000 civilian residents, would have catastrophic consequences. Immediate action is required from all parties to the conflict and the wider international community to deliver an inclusive political solution and put an end to the conflict.

“The port of Hodeidah is a humanitarian lifeline for the people of Yemen,” said David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee. “It is imperative that humanitarian supplies are maintained. We repeat, again, that an assault on Hodeidah is a grave threat to life and livelihood. We urge the UN Security Council to meet today to demand immediate assurances to maintain this critical facility.”

During the first three months of 2018, Hodeidah was estimated to account for more food imports than the next three largest seaports combined. These other ports are unable to handle similar import volumes. In a context where current levels of food and fuel imports into Yemen are already insufficient to meet the basic needs of the population, there is no viable alternative to replace Hodeidah if it is closed by conflict or suffers significant damage due to fighting or scorched earth tactics by a retreating military.

Hodeidah is a living community of 400,000 people, including IRC staff working on critical, life-saving health and clean water and sanitation projects. Some residents have already left the city, others cannot afford to do so. These people have no option but to wait and see how events outside their control play out.

Beyond the very real and very dire humanitarian impacts, the political implications would be severe. For the first time in recent memory, there is a glimmer of hope for a meaningful peace process: UN special representative Martin Griffiths is due to unveil a peace framework, and military action would extinguish any hope for a political process to take root. A peace agreement between warring parties is the only hope for an end to the suffering of the Yemeni people.

The international community must use all leverage to urge all parties to show restraint and keep the space open for a political path forward. The port of Hodeidah must remain operational and undamaged, and parties to the conflict have a moral and legal obligation to ensure that not a single innocent civilian life is lost during military action.

For more information on Yemen, please visit:

https://www.rescue.org/country/yemen

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.