Saudi Arabia eased its blockade on Yemen 30 days ago, but the crisis is still getting worse

The month-long easement was meant to allow critical fuel, food and aid into the country, but Oxfam says just over half of its monthly food needs have been met.
January 20, 2018, 1:45pm
A worker prepares wheat sacks at the Red Sea port of Salif, Yemen September 30, 2017. Picture taken September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

Thirty days after Saudi Arabia eased its crippling blockade on Yemen, humanitarian aid groups say only a sliver of critical fuel and commercial goods are getting through.

Saudi Arabia introduced the total blockade on Nov. 6 after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile from Yemen toward Riyadh. The Kingdom said its goal was to prevent the flow of weapons into the country, but the blockade overwhelmingly harmed civilians, and pushed the country to the brink of famine. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and roughly 22 million Yemenis rely on humanitarian assistance to survive.

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Facing mounting international pressure from the U.S. and aid groups, the Saudi-coalition began loosening its grip in mid-December, 2017. The month-long easement was meant to allow fuel, food and aid into the country, but Oxfam says just 18 percent of Yemen's monthly fuel needs have been met. On the food front, things look somewhat better, with a little more than half of the country's monthly needs being met. But aid officials worry the coalition could reintroduce the blockade at any moment and further exacerbate the humanitarian crisis still gripping the country.

Read: An 8-year-old girl, a Saudi airstrike, and an American made bomb

“To sum it up, it’s as if the [Saudi-led] coalition, due to partly pressure from the U.S., has pressed the pause button on a horror movie, and that tomorrow we’re going to learn that they’re going to press play again,” Scott Paul, Humanitarian Policy Lead for Oxfam America told VICE News.

Paul said humanitarian organizations have been in close communication with the Trump administration and that they’ve seen a “really consistent, sustained effort” to put pressure on the Saudi-coalition to allow goods to continue entering the country.

Read: Yemen's war is destroying a generation of children

On Dec. 6, the White House released a statement urging Saudi Arabia to “completely allow” food, water, fuel, and aid to get into the country.

The war in Yemen, now nearing the end of its third year, is far from over. The proxy battle between the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi-rebels continues to trap civilians in what the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian disaster in the world.