Three million at risk of starvation in Yemen – UN report warns of crippling Saudi siege

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Demonstration outside the Saudi embassy in London demanding action over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi and an immediate end to the attack on Yemen

FOOD insecurity across Yemen is set to rise from two million to over three million in just six months, report UN agencies – who have now warned of an ‘alarming increase’ in the number of people facing ‘acute food insecurity’ in the war-hit country.

On top of the crippling siege launched by the Saudi-led military coalition has come the coronavirus pandemic. A grim analysis of that has been made public in a report this week by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).
According to that report the overall economic decline – worsened by the Saudi-led siege and the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with flooding and desert locust invasions – is threatening to reverse hard-earned food security gains in the war-torn peninsular Arab country.
The analysis, conducted in 133 districts in southern Yemen, forecasts that the number of people facing high levels of ‘acute food insecurity’ will rise from two million to 3.2 million in the next six months.
‘The people of Yemen have already been through a lot and are resilient. But they are facing now too many hardships and threats all at once – from Covid-19 to Desert Locust invasions.
‘Small-holder farmers and families who depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods need our support now more than ever,’ said FAO Representative in Yemen Hussein Gadain.
The expected jump in food insecurity would mean that 40 per cent of the population would be affected from July through December, a 15 percentage-point increase from the first six months of the year.

  • At least nine civilians have been killed in fresh Saudi-led airstrikes against a residential area in Yemen’s northern province of al-Jawf, a WFP report has said.

‘We must act now. In 2019, thanks to a massive scale-up, WFP and partners were able to reverse the deterioration in the worst-hit areas of Yemen. The warning signs have returned, and with coronavirus pandemic added to the mix it could get a lot worse if humanitarian action is delayed,’ said Laurent Bukera, the WFP country director in Yemen.
Separately, Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen, said too that Yemen was again on the brink of a major food security crisis. ‘Unless we receive the funding we need now, we won’t be able to do the same this time,’ she added.
The analysis proposed recommendations ‘for urgent actions,’ such as ensuring unhindered food assistance, rehabilitating local water infrastructures damaged by flash floods, aiding farmers, promoting good nutritional practices, and boosting early warning and general food security monitoring systems.
Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 to restore power to its former regime and crush the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, whose fighters have been of significant help to the Yemeni army in defending the country against the invaders.
The ongoing war has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and pushed the entire country close to the brink of famine. The brutal military intervention has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.
The UN has warned that nearly 10 million people are facing acute food shortages in war-torn Yemen.
The imposed war initially consisted of a ceaseless airstrike campaign, but was later coupled with a crippling naval and aerial blockade and the deployment of ground mercenaries to Yemen.
The blockade – particularly on Hudaydah port city, a lifeline for the impoverished nation – has also left the country highly vulnerable against the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • A Qatar Airways Boeing 787 airplane, transporting medical protective gear for a donation by the government of Qatar to Bosnia and Herzegovina, landed at Sarajevo International Airport, on May 19, 2020 amid the spread of the Covid-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus.

Qatar Airways has announced that it will seek at least 5 billion dollars in compensation from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Egypt over the air blockade they imposed on the state-owned flag carrier.
The four countries have blocked Qatar Airways from their airspace since 2017, when the quartet severed diplomatic and trade ties with Doha over accusations it meddled in regional affairs and supported ‘terrorism’.
Qatar has rejected the allegations and said it was targeted because it followed an independent foreign policy.
‘The arbitrations seek redress for the blockading states’ actions to remove Qatar Airways from their markets and to forbid the airline from flying over their airspace,’ the carrier said in a statement issued on Wednesday.
‘These measures specifically targeted Qatar Airways, with the objective of shuttering Qatar Airways’ local operations, destroying the value of the airline’s investments and causing widespread damage to Qatar Airways’ global network of operations.’
Last week, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Qatar could challenge the blockade before the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) – rejecting appeals made by each of the four countries.
Qatar Airways has said it is seeking redress through four arbitration actions under three separate treaties, each of which allows such an action in the case of a conflict.
‘After more than three years of efforts to resolve the crisis amicably through dialogue yielded no results, we have taken the decision to issue Notices of Arbitration and pursue all legal remedies to protect our rights and secure full compensation for the violations,’ said the airline’s chief executive, Akbar al-Baker, according to the statement.
‘By imposing the measures against Qatar Airways, the blockading states have violated their obligations under the agreements, including by expropriating and failing to adequately protect and secure Qatar Airways investments.’
The carrier has reported significant losses since the start of the air blockade.
At the same time the US Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC) has passed a resolution to investigate the possible dumping of crude oil on US markets by both Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The effort was initiated by Railroad Commission Chairman Wayne Christian, a Republican from Texas, demanding that the government investigate excessive dumping of crude oil.
‘For much of 2019 and early 2020, Saudi Arabia shipped relatively little crude to America, with average arrivals running at about 475,000 barrels a day,’ said Christian. ‘After the covid-19 pandemic crippled the US oil and gas industry, Saudi Arabia shipped 1.3 million barrels a day to our nation, roughly four times February’s daily volume, and the highest figure since 2014.’
He further mentioned that the US had become the world’s top producer after producing a record 12.4 million barrels of oil in August 2019.
Oil prices could go negative again as a result, the US commodities regulator warned in response – linking it however with another warning – that oil prices could drop again below zero.