Saudi-backed forces have begun an assault on the key Yemeni port of Hodeida which is held by Houti rebels. The bombing began on Wednesday after the rebels ignored a deadline set by the Yemeni government to withdraw from the port.
Hodeida is a lifeline for the majority of Yemen’s population and aid agencies earlier this week had warned of a humanitarian catastrophe if the attack went ahead.
Lives of 300,000 children at risk
One of those warnings came from the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF which said any attack on Hodeida would deepen one of the world’s worst malnutrition crises and put the lives of an estimated 300,000 children at risk.
UNICEF’s Director General, Henrietta Fore, said that apart from the 300,00 children at risk in Hodeida millions more children throughout Yemen depend on the humanitarian and commercial goods that come through that port every day for their very survival.
“Without fuel, critical for water pumping, people’s access to drinking water will shrink further, leading to even more cases of acute watery diarrhoea and cholera, both of which can be deadly for small children,” she added.
Warning of humanitarian catastrophe
Speaking to journalists, the UN relief chief Mark Lowcock described earlier this week the extent to which the port of Hodeida represents a lifeline for the majority of Yemen’s population.
“Ninety per cent of the food and medicines that are consumed in Yemen are imported and seventy per cent of those imports go through Hodeida. Seven million people are completely reliant every month on food, and more than 7 million on other assistance, from humanitarian organizations,” said Mr. Lowcock, who is also UN Humanitarian Coordinator.
He said that if the port were to close for any period of time, or “not to operate effectively, the consequences in humanitarian terms would be catastrophic”.
The conflict in Yemen which has raged since late 2014 has created the world’s largest food emergency with millions at risk of starvation.