Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military aggression against the Yemeni city of Hudaydah has put thousands of children at risk of death, starvation and disease, says an activist group.
The charity Save the Children said Thursday that around 6,000 people – half of them children — are leaving the war-ravaged city every day, bringing the total number of people forced out of the city since the start of the offensive in June to more than 330,000.
“With the economy in tatters and health and sanitation facilities throughout the country destroyed, conditions are now rampant for disease and starvation to spread,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director.
“Aid agencies are doing what they can to keep people alive but ultimately, our efforts are just a sticking plaster on a gaping wound,” he added.
Saudi Arabia and several of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan, launched a brutal war, code-named Operation Decisive Storm, against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and crush the popular Ansarullah movement.
Hudaydah, the impoverished Arab country’s main port city, has been under aerial and maritime siege by the Saudi military forces. The blockade has prevented medicines and other critical commodities from reaching around 8.4 million people who are believed to be on the verge of starvation.
Launched in June by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the Hudaydah offensive is the largest battle in the Saudi-led war, which Yemeni officials say has killed and injured over 600,000 people.
A round of fresh airstrikes by Saudi warplanes left 26 people dead and 35 others injured, medical sources told Reuters.
Save the Children warned in its Thursday statement that Hudaydah’s neighboring areas did not have the means to accommodate the huge influx of people and many of the refugees were struggling to find food, water and medicine.
Meanwhile, Juliette Touma, a spokeswoman for the United Nations children’s agency, warned that a series of Saudi attacks on the city last week had a “catastrophic” impact on organization’s ability to supply clean water and sanitation to the population, raising the specter of a new disease outbreak.
“These attacks may contribute to the increase of water-borne diseases – especially to children who are prone to diseases like cholera, and (getting) diarrhea,” the Jordan-based official told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday.
“There is a war on children in Yemen – very few places are safe for a Yemeni child,” she added.
The UN has also warned of risks that the war has posed against pregnant women in Yemen, which already holds one of the world’s highest rates of maternal mortality.
Some 90,000 women are reportedly due to give birth in the next nine months.
New UN initiative for peace
In another development, Martin Griffiths, Yemen’s envoy to the UN, said the world body was going to invite warring sides for talks on September 6 in Geneva.
The talks are aimed at hammering out a framework for peace negotiations, the envoy told the UN Security Council on Thursday.
Griffiths further added that “a political solution” to end the war in Yemen was “available.”