The U.N. Security Council should coerce warring groups in Yemen to commit to a ceasefire and peace talks in order to save half a million civilian lives in the port city of Hodeidah from being casualties of cholera and starvation, Oxfam, a confederation of 20 independent charitable organizations, said in a statement on Thursday.
“Oxfam is calling on the U.N. Security Council, which will discuss the crisis today, not to allow Hodeidah to become a graveyard and to exert maximum diplomatic pressure on the warring parties to agree an immediate ceasefire and return to peace talks,” the organization said.
Since the war began three years ago in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, it has caused millions to flee, while others were left behind with aid groups unable to reach them.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report on Wednesday confirming that more than 17,350 households (over 121,000 people) have been displaced since June 1 due to fighting by Saudi-led forces.
Since 2014, the fight between Houthi rebels and Yemeni national forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition has led to a wave of casualties and displacement for those living in the country. An estimated 56,000 people have been displaced since June 26 alone.
Around 500,000 people inside Hodeidah are now at risk of starvation and cholera due to being somewhat locked in with dwindling supplies as well as destroyed water filtration and sewer systems, causing a crisis.
After a partial calm during the last few days, air attacks were carried out near the Hodeidah-Sana road, and Hodeidah airport, with intensive air raids also reported on July 4 in the southern Zaid District, according to the OCHA.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said many Yemenis are not allowed to come and go through checkpoints out of Hodeidah, especially since tensions began to increase around July 2.
Hodeidah city remains largely calm, but tense as of right now, the NRC said. Businesses remain closed, and people are mostly staying inside. Some 3.3 million people live in Hodeidah governorate, and 600,000 live in Hodeidah city. Shipments of food are making their way into the city in-between airstrikes.
Since April 2017, 162,000 suspected cases of cholera have been identified in Hodeidah, equating to 15 percent of Yemen’s total cholera caseload, according to NRC. Many otherwise able to cope are at risk of death due to government freezing of assets, rising cost of products due to scarcity and overall instability of currency, causing them to be unable to purchase or even import basic necessities.
The war is taking its toll on remaining residents. “Airstrikes were intense earlier this week and we were very scared. Yesterday the situation was calmer. My neighbourhood looks like a ghost city, all my neighbours have fled because they were scared of the situation and of being bombed. I can no longer wait; the roads might be blocked and so I will leave to Hajjah,” one told NRC.
On Thursday, the Trump Administration extended the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Yemenis already living in the United States under it for 18 months. However, the Administration did not extend TPS to other Yemenis in the U.S.
“Continuing to grant TPS will not solve the crisis but is the least we can do for the Yemenis who have arrived in the U.S. seeking safety and protection. While the decision provides a temporary respite for over 1,000 Yemenis currently with TPS, it does nothing for other Yemeni citizens in the US who cannot apply for TPS,” Oxfam said.
The organization called on Congress to pass legislation granting Yemeni TPS holders permanent residency status and a path to citizenship “so that they can continue to safely live and work in the U.S. without fear of return to the devastating conditions in Yemen.”
About 2.7 million people need humanitarian assistance across Yemen, a country of about 30 million. More than 50,000 children passed away in 2017 and the overall death toll of all Yemenis is unknown.