Saudi Arabia pushed war-ravaged Yemen to the brink of the worst famine the world has seen in decades when it closed the country’s ports on Nov. 5. Riyadh sealed all entry via land, air, and sea in retaliation to an intercepted a ballistic missile near the capital, allegedly fired by Yemeni rebels known as the Houthi. The U.N. has warned that the “catastrophic” blockade could endanger the lives of millions of aid-reliant people.
Here’s what you need to know:
How bad is it?
Seven million people are on the brink of famine, according to the U.N. Yemen depends almost entirely on imports for essential items, but from canceled flights to denied ships, the blockade has halted all humanitarian deliveries of food and medicine. The crisis comes amid the fastest-growing cholera epidemic ever recorded, affecting nearly 900,000 people, according to U.N. figures. With growing scarcity of fuel, prices of diesel and cooking gas are skyrocketing. According to the U.N., fuel prices jumped about 60% overnight as the blockade took effect, while the price of cooking gas doubled.
Why is the aid blocked?
A failed political transition in 2015 plunged Yemen into civil war. On one side is the Yemeni coalition government backed by Saudi Arabia. Houthi rebels, which Iran has backed but denies arming, lead the other. After Saudi Arabia intercepted the missile, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused Iran of supplying weapons to the Houthis, calling it a “direct military aggression,” in a phone conversation with U.K. foreign secretary Boris Johnson, according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. The prince added that the measure “may be considered an act of war.” In an apparent effort to halt suspected smuggling of weapons into the country, Saudi Arabia froze the border, with no clarity on how deliveries of humanitarian could proceed.