Yemen bombed into Syria-grade catastrophe in just 5 months – Red Cross

© Khaled Abdullah
Five months of Saudi-led airstrikes and ground military campaigns in Yemen have created “catastrophic” conditions in the country and destruction which the Red Cross can only compare to the devastation of after five years of civil war in Syria.

“Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years,” the head of the international Red Cross, Peter Maurer told AP, after witnessing the destruction first hand. “The images I have from Sanaa and Aden remind of what I have seen in Syria.”

Violence in Yemen escalated late March after a Saudi-led coalition began its airstrike campaign to support forces loyal to the exiled government of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Months of bombardment caused large-scale destruction and eventually led to tanks and other military hardware deployments to break the stalemate on the ground.

All this, in addition to the air and naval blockade the Saudis continue to enforce on their neighbor, have led to a devastating humanitarian crisis.

“The firepower with which this war is fought on the ground and in the air is causing more suffering than in other societies which are stronger and where infrastructures are better off and people are wealthier and have reserves and can escape,” Maurer said.

Maurer also noted that he had a rare opportunity to assess the aid response, saying that despite a moment of relative calmness in the capital the question of whether any help will come remains.

Meanwhile Ertharin Cousin, head of the UN’s World Food Program, noted that continued fighting has left the country on the brink of famine, noting that commercial food imports and aid delivery hold-ups are causing starvation in Yemen.

At a briefing to the 15-member UN Security Council, United Nations' Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O’Brien said that coalition’s strikes on Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeida could worsen the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

“These attacks are in clear contravention of international humanitarian law and are unacceptable,” O'Brien said of the Tuesday attacks on the port. “I am extremely concerned that the damage to the port of Hodeida could have a severe impact on the entire country, and would deepen humanitarian needs, making more people food insecure, leaving them without access to water or medicines, which could also mean the spread of disease.”

Yemen needs $1.6 billion dollars in aid, but is trying to survive on 18 percent of that sum, lacking millions to help civilians in need, O'Brien said. He blamed Saudi Arabia for failing to deliver on its promise of humanitarian relief back in April.

Ali Al Ahmed, Director of the Institute of Gulf Affairs told RT that Saudi Arabia has only promised aid to Yemen for PR reasons.

“The Saudi government has a history of making claims for PR purposes but when it comes to implementations, there is no implementation. Their statement about over $250 mil worth of aid to Yemen was not materialized because it was designed to reduce the international pressure and the outrage of the Saudi-led bombing that has caused the death of more than 4,000 Yemenis,” Al Ahmed said.

While the conflict continues, O'Brien urged Saudi Arabia to spare civilians.

“Disregard for human life by all parties continues, with attacks on residential areas and civilian infrastructure having a disproportionate impact on the lives of ordinary people in Yemen,” O'Brien said, as he called on Riyadh and its allies to keep airports and seaports open for humanitarian supplies.

According to the latest UN figures offered to the Security Council, four out of five people or 21 million need urgent humanitarian aid, as more than 1.5 million people have been displaced and over 1,900 people have been killed since March.