Read caption "We've ended up with nothing, and we are now totally dependent on humanitarian aid," mother of three, Aliyah said. Photo: Nuha Mohammed/NRC.

Saudi aid package to Yemen insufficient unless blockade ends

Published 25. Jan 2018
NRC statement on Saudi aid package to Yemen.

The recently announced Saudi aid package to Yemen will not solve Yemen's humanitarian needs unless it also allows for unhindered entry of commercial and humanitarian food, fuel and other vital supplies in through all of Yemen's ports, including Hodeida, NRC said today.NRC also called on the coalition to ensure that all aid delivery is in line with long-standing humanitarian principles.

“Increased resources and efforts that will bring more aid to Yemeni civilian are welcome,” Jan Egeland said. “But if the Saudi-led Coalition really wants to relieve the suffering in Yemen, it should completely lift the blockade on commercial imports, including fuel, that is crippling the country.”

On January 22, Saudi authorities announced the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations plan, which pledges significant additional humanitarian funding for Yemen’s humanitarian response. The announcement also outlined plans to increase the capacity of several ports servicing Yemen and to establish safe overland transportation routes. While the announcement says that the aim of the efforts is to increase imports to Yemen, it is not clear what restrictions will still be in place on commercial imports coming through Hodeida, Yemen’s most important sea port.

Humanitarian aid alone will not meet Yemen’s humanitarian needs, NRC said. While more than 22 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance, the United Nations humanitarian response plan, even if fully funded and implemented, is designed to provide aid and protection to only 13 million people. Swift, uninterrupted processes for importing commercial goods through all of Yemen’s ports is essential to help prevent more humanitarian catastrophe.  

Fuel is particularly important to avoid the spread of hunger and disease. Shortages are driving up fuel prices and reducing the amount of money people have left to cover basic costs: food prices have increased, water prices are up and the cost of public transport has doubled, which mean fewer people can get to work, look for work, send children to school or reach medical treatment.

Hodeida port continues to represent Yemen’s most important port of entry for humanitarian and commercial goods, serving more than 22 million people. Hodeida has significantly greater handling capacity and proximity to populated areas than other ports, which allows food and fuel to be transported more quickly, safely and cheaply than is possible through alternative ports.

The Saudi-led coalition imposed a complete blockade on Hodeida port in early November after Ansar Allah, which controls areas across northern Yemen, fired ballistic missiles against targets in Saudi Arabia. On December 20 last year, the coalition announced that it would ease the blockade for a period of 30 days, which resulted in a significant increase in food imports, but not in a comparable increase in fuel imports. The extension of this 30-day period, announced earlier this week, leaves a small widow open to continue importing critical supplies, but uncertainty around the functioning of the port beyond then, NRC said. Together with ongoing bureaucratic hurdles, these restrictions have reduced the confidence of shipping companies in using the port. Rolling thirty-day concessions are not enough to ensure sufficient food and fuel continues to reach Yemen, the blockade must be lifted immediately and completely.

Key humanitarian principles dictate that humanitarian operations should deliver aid based on need alone, and that they should not be influenced by political, economic, military or other objectives.

“Strangling Yemen’s main port with delays and time-bound restrictions is a sure way to prevent enough food and fuel to reach Yemen’s suffering civilians,” Egeland said. “Whether the Saudi authorities permanently opens Hodeida port for unrestricted import of commercial goods is a litmus test for whether they are sincere in their professed concern for Yemen’s civilians.”