The head of the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) visited Yemen and described the conditions he saw in the country to reporters as “hell.” His visit comes as the UN is warning 400,000 Yemeni children will starve to death in 2021 if conditions do not change.
David Beasley described what he saw in a visit to a Yemeni hospital to The Associated Press. “In a children’s wing or ward of a hospital, you know you normally hear crying and laughter. There’s no crying, there’s no laughter, there’s dead silence,” he said. “This is hell. It’s the worst place on earth. And it’s entirely man-made.”
The suffering in Yemen is a direct result of the US-backed Saudi-led war that has been raging since March 2015. Besides a vicious bombing campaign that frequently targets civilian infrastructure, including food supplies, the US and Saudi Arabia have been enforcing a blockade on Yemen.
According to an investigation from CNN, despite the warnings of famine, the blockade is still being enforced. Nima Elbagir, the CNN reporter who traveled to Yemen, witnessed the effects of the blockade. The report showed hundreds of food trucks stranded in the port city of Hodeidah due to a lack of fuel because of the blockade. According to the investigation, no tankers have docked in Hodeidah since last December.
When asked about the situation, Timothy Lenderking, Biden’s special envoy for Yemen denied the facts on the ground. “[Lenderking] denies the claims that we show in that report,” Elbagir told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“He said that those boats are currently off the port of Hodeidah. And Jake, that’s just not true. He also says that food continues to flow through Hodeidah unimpeded, and also, that is just not true. You saw those food trucks along the side of that road,” Elbagir said.
Lenderking was appointed by Biden to find a diplomatic solution to end the war in Yemen. “He says the US is committed to push the parties towards peace, and the questions that we have for him is: how is that possible when you are not acknowledging the full impact of that US-backed Saudi embargo on the people of Yemen?” Elbagir asked.
The war and blockade has left about 80 percent of Yemen’s population reliant on aid. The WFP is struggling to raise money for aid due to the economic impact of the coronavirus lockdowns. Beasley said the WFP needs an additional $1.9 billion to meet its goals in Yemen this year, and he is appealing to private donors to raise the funds.