March 25 marks the fifth anniversary of the brutal war in Yemen. Code-named Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive operations began with airstrikes and a naval blockade against the Houthi rebels with a goal of restoring Yemen’s ousted government. With early and generous American military support to the Saudi-led coalition, this war has created the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. And things could easily get even worse.
The coronavirus has recently begun to spread from Iran into the greater Middle East. Yemen’s dilapidated health infrastructure and frail population – at greater risk due to years of hunger, disease, and displacement from violent conflict - has world health experts worried about a disaster scenario when the virus inevitably arrives and takes root.
On this heartbreaking 5th anniversary of the war, the United States must end the obstruction of humanitarian assistance, press for a nationwide ceasefire, and support a diplomatic settlement to the war.
After five years of war, roughly 14 million people are at risk of famine and over 24 million people rely on food assistance for survival. Aid agencies have described Yemen as the worst place on earth to be a child, with the conflict claiming the lives of at least 85,000 under the age of five. More than 2 million people have been infected with cholera, while an alarming dengue and influenza epidemic is gripping the country. The Saudi-led coalition’s blockade has impeded the flow of food, fuel, and medicine, which has threatened the lives of millions. And our decision to suspend all humanitarian aid (due to reports that some aid was being diverted) is not morally sustainable in light of the added urgency of coronavirus.