A prominent refugee agency has warned that Yemen faces an “untenable” humanitarian situation, as the war-torn nation on Sunday marked 500 days since Saudi Arabia began its bombing campaign.
Figures released by the Norwegian Refugee Council set out the humanitarian situation in Yemen, where 21 million people – 80 percent of the population – require some form of aid amid an ongoing war.
The NRC said at least 6,500 people have been killed – more than half of them civilians – and 32,000 injured since Saudi Arabia formed a military coalition aimed at reinstating the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
Riyadh launched their bombing campaign in March 2015 to push back Houthi militia who the Saudis say are backed by regional rival Iran. The Houthis seized control of the capital Sanaa in September 2014, forcing Hadi into exile in Riyadh.
The Houthis who, along with Saudi Arabia, have been accused of flagrant violations of international law during the conflict, remain in control of Sanaa despite 500 days of bombing – although the Houthis from the northern Saada province have been pushed back from the southern areas of the country.
The NRC said that while peace talks in Kuwait have collapsed, Yemeni civilians are being plunged ever deeper into a desperate humanitarian situation.
The Oslo-based organisation said that almost 20 million Yemenis have no access to clean water, and more than 14 million do not have access to healthcare.
More than seven million people are classified as “severely food insecure,” while a Saudi-imposed blockade has “crippled” Yemen’s economy, according to the NRC.
All sides in the war have been accused of committing war crimes, although the UN has singled out Saudi Arabia for criticism of their bombing campaign and its high civilian toll.
NRC secretary-general Jan Egeland said that “time is running out before the catastrophe will be irreversible.”
Syma Jamil, NRC’s country director in Yemen, added: “Despite the staggering figures of ordinary Yemenis suffering because of the raging conflict, the outside world has kept its eyes shut to this crisis. The situation for Yemenis keeps deteriorating and it is now untenable. Yemenis won’t be able to cope for much longer.”
Yemen has been wracked by chaos since late 2014, when the Houthis and their allies overran Sanaa and other parts of the country, forcing President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and his Saudi-backed government to temporarily flee to Riyadh. Saudi soldiers
The Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi militias in March 2015. It sides with the President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, while the Houthis are aligned with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted after Yemen revolution in 2012.