SANAA, YEMEN (WBZ-AM/AP) – There is currently a tense situation in Yemen.
The country has entered its fourth year of war --- a proxy war involving rebels allegedly backed by Iran versus Gulf-Arab States.
In the last few years these neighboring nations have subsequently intervened there to maintain peace and control of the country following a global appeal from the Yemeni leadership.
The rebel group Houthis, and other groups such as ISIS, have marched on the then-capital of Sana’a and taken over.
On Tuesday, fierce fighting raged outside the airport of the crucial Yemeni city of Hodeida as thousands of pro-government fighters backed by a Saudi-led coalition, battled Iranian-allied Shiite rebels for control of the Red Sea port — the main passageway for food and aid supplies in a country teetering on the brink of famine affecting millions.
Nadine Drummond, a spokesperson and media lead for the international non-government organization Save The Children, is on the ground in Yemen monitoring the situation and coordinating relief efforts.
And while the United Nations is currently in talks to potentially take administrative control of the port, Drummond tells WBZ NewsRadio1030, that an estimated 100,000 children under five are suffering from extreme hunger in Hodeidah area alone.
Should the vital port close and food imports decrease, tens of thousands of children could die.
Listen to the interview below. Drummond spoke to WBZ NewsRadio1030 Producer/Editor Suzanne Sausville by phone. Full Transcript Below.
Drummond: “Yemen has entered the fourth year of its war. There’s an escalation of the crisis since 2015 where the Houthis and other groups have marched on the then-capital of Sana’a and took over.
The then-Prime Minister…made a global appeal for other countries to support him maintaining control of his country. Now,other countries engaged themselves; Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates have formed a coalition to fight against the rebel group, the Houthis, in order to help him maintain control of the country. What you see now is that being played out. Yemen is often framed as a “civil war”, but in many ways, it isn’t. It’s a proxy war, because we have external actors. Mainly Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Iran.”
Sausville: “Your organization is warning of very severe consequences for civilians if the city of Hodeida comes under attack. Why is that? What are those consequences?”
Drummond: “So, Hodeida is known as a main port in Yemen. It’s a strategic port. Either side of the conflict would like to control it. At the moment, the Houthis control it. Our NGO, they’re not particularly interested in who wins the conflict, per se, because there are no women. The only people that will [inaudible] under the Muslim faith would be children – children and their families. The reason Hodeida is so important is because it’s the last line of two-thirds of the country that are not in the center of the country , and that’s about 18 million people. And the port – there’s aid; the Hodeida port imports most of the aid that the UN and all the other aid organizations use in the country. Something that isn’t often highlighted is the commercial exports. 90 percent of Yemenis are dependent on imports, and 70 percent of those imports come through the Hodeida port. Now, the challenge is, is that if those imports in any way, shape or form, are delayed – whether it’s aid, whether it’s medicine, or it’s food – the people in Hodeida – many of them will starve. Hodeida is one of the hardest hit in Yemen because of its strategic location. There’s always front lines of fights for control of the ports. Bear in mind that more than 17 million people in Yemen are food insecure. That means 2/3 of the population have no idea where their next meal is coming from. If the port is closed, or there’s any delay in imports, all of those people that are used to having one meal a day? That meal will disappear. At the moment, Hodeida is being bombarded from the air. It’s being bombarded from the sea, and you have a ground force – there are reports of a state backed thousand-strong ground force marching on the city. They’re only about eight to ten kilometers away. And if you think about heavy weaponry, and there are half a million people in Hodeida , and most people will be trapped in their communities, and there’s nowhere for them to go. So, with the bombing – the heavy military, people fighting in the streets, [inaudible]. There are tanks in the street. The rebel fighters are out in the streets ready to be [inaudible]. But there’s half a million people that are already food insecure. Half a million people that suffer is unimaginable. 300,000 people in the city are already dependent on food aid. Over 100,000 children in Hodeida \suffer from lack of food – malnutrition. So the effects of this assault on Hodeida – there are effects we cannot predict. These are effects we cannot ignore. This is not about who wins the battle for the fight for the port of Hodeida. This is about how we keep Yemenis alive.”
Sausville: “So what would you like to see happen at this point?”
Drummond: “The parties of the conflict in Yemen need to cease and desist. They need to stop the violence. They need to find a negotiated and sustainable peace. This is impossible at the moment. The UN envoy, Mr. Griffiths, he’d like to present to the UN Security Council. But that’s not going to happen because everyone keeps fighting. The conflict in Hodeida will be protracted. This isn’t something aid agencies can manage. We are not here to manage a conflict or stop parties fighting. We are here as a band-aid to provide relief to people who need it most. Children and families. There are so many external actors now engaged in Yemen – for us – it’s incumbent upon international governments that sit on the UN Security Council to use their power to influence parties of the conflict and get it resolved. It’s absolutely outrageous that at least 4,000 Yemeni children can die in the middle of this conflict – it’s absolutely outrageous that a child in Yemen’s life is less valuable than a child in the United States, or that a child in the United Kingdom, or that of a child in France. “
WBZ NewsRadio1030’s staffers Susanne Sausville, Rony Camille,Nichole Davis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.