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Yemen: Is Peace Possible?
Yemen: Is Peace Possible?
How All Sides of Yemen’s War Are Weaponising Hunger and Creating a Famine
How All Sides of Yemen’s War Are Weaponising Hunger and Creating a Famine

Yemen: Is Peace Possible?

A year after the start of the Yemen war, April Longley Alley, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for the Arabian Peninsula, describes how she sees no end to the conflict in sight. In discussion with Hugh Pope, Director of Communications and Outreach, she outlines the main findings of the 9 February report Yemen, Is Peace Possible?, assessing in detail the local parties to the conflict, the fears of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s “shoestring” role, and the country’s often-overlooked humanitarian emergency.

In this podcast, Crisis Group's April Longley Alley outlines the findings of our latest Yemen report, assessing the belligerents, Saudi concerns, Iran’s “shoestring” role, and the humanitarian emergency. CRISIS GROUP

How All Sides of Yemen’s War Are Weaponising Hunger and Creating a Famine

Originally published in World Politics Review

With the world's largest hunger crisis, Yemen sits precariously on the brink of famine. Avoiding it will require all warring parties to desist from weaponising Yemen's increasingly fragile economy and return to the negotiating table.

As the fate of Yemen hangs in the balance, the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia that supports the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi is about to escalate its two-year-old war by launching a new offensive in the key Red Sea port of Hodeida. The move aims to throttle Hadi’s enemies, Houthi rebels aligned with former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, but it is more likely to choke the country’s population, tipping it from hunger and starvation into outright famine. 

Hodeida, the country’s busiest and most important port, is responsible for 80 percent of northern Yemen’s imports. If the Saudi-led coalition proceeds with an offensive against Houthi and pro-Saleh forces ensconced in the port, it will cut a lifeline sustaining the bulk of Yemen’s population, including in the capital, Sanaa. 

Yemen is almost totally dependent on imports for staple commodities, with 17 million people out of a population of 24 million currently in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Four million are acutely malnourished. Already in December 2016, Yemeni women and children made up almost two-thirds of those suffering acute malnutrition.

Avoiding famine—if this is still possible—will require Saudi-backed forces to refrain from what promises to be a protracted and bloody battle for Hodeida that is unlikely to do anything but encourage the Houthi-Saleh alliance to open fronts elsewhere, including even inside Saudi Arabia, and appeal increasingly to Iran for military support. There is no alternative to using the Red Sea port in terms of location and infrastructure to ship food to the Houthi- and Saleh-controlled north.

Since war broke out in March 2015, both Saudi-led forces and the Houthi-Saleh bloc have weaponized Yemen’s economy by hindering the movement of aid and commercial goods to areas they are besieging. Shortages, delays and long queues for food quickly resulted.

Read the full article at World Politics Review.


Program Director, Middle East and North Africa
Senior Analyst, Arabian Peninsula