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Children fleeing Saudi coalition bombings in Sanaa, April 6, 2015. (Photo: Abdullah Ali/Reuters)

Children fleeing Saudi coalition bombings in Sanaa, April 6, 2015. (Photo: Abdullah Ali/Reuters)

Will US Government Be Made to Answer for Fueling Yemen's Approaching Famine?

UN official warns country of 26 million 'one step' from mass starvation

Sarah Lazare

With Yemen on the verge of famine, and civilians paying a devastating toll in the relentless Saudi-led bombing campaign, one key question emerges: Will the U.S. government ever be held to account for its role in the crisis?

The United Nations warned Wednesday that the country of 26 million faces the highest-level humanitarian emergency—on par with Iraq, Syria, and South Sudan.

The grim assessment adds to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon's call on Wednesday for an immediate halt to the fighting, or at the very least, a "pause in hostilities until the end of the holy month of Ramadan so that humanitarian aid can be delivered into and across Yemen and reach people cut off from vital supplies for months."

As of now, nearly 13 million people are "not able to meet their food needs," and 15 million "have no healthcare and outbreaks of dengue and malaria are raging unchecked," said the UN in another statement this week.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN envoy for Yemen, warned last week that the country is "one step" from famine.

"Children are not being vaccinated—either because health centres do not have electricity or the fuel they need to keep vaccines cold and distribute them, or because parents are too frightened by the fighting to take their children to receive vaccinations," said Dr. Peter Salama, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, earlier this week. "The tragic result is that children are going to die of diseases like measles and pneumonia that would normally be preventable."

Journalist Chris Toensing wrote that the United States is "partly to blame" for Yemen's starvation and crisis, pointing out that "the United States has even announced a full suspension of aid to Yemen for a year, undercutting its occasional murmurs of humanitarian concern."

"The Obama administration should withdraw its support for the bombing, lift the blockade, and broker a power-sharing agreement between Yemen’s competing factions," Toensing urged. "For the people of Yemen, it’s beyond urgent."

In the more than three months since the Saudi coalition bombings began, roughly 3,000 people have been killed, half of them civilians, according to the statistics released Thursday by the United Nations. In addition, 14,000 have been wounded and more than a million forcibly displaced from their homes.

Strikes have hit schools, refugee camps, power plants, and warehouses storing humanitarian aid, and Amnesty International declared in a report released Wednesday that the Saudi coalition has a pattern of attacking civilian areas with "powerful bombs."

Late last month, Human Rights Watch released an analysis identifying a string of coalition bombings on Saada City that "appeared to violate international humanitarian law, also known as the laws of war, and resulted in numerous civilian deaths and injuries." The group warned that the United States could be liable for war crimes due to its direct support for the onslaught.

This backing includes logistics and intelligence support for the coalition's daily strikes. Moreover, the United States is supplying critical weapons to the coalition, including cluster bombs, composed of hundreds of explosive submunitions that kill and maim civilian populations.

Those who survive direct military attacks face other grave threats, as a Saudi-led naval blockade seals off an impoverished country that, even before the war, relied on imports for 90 percent of staple food items. United States warships, stationed near Yemen, are part of the military force cutting off Yemen from critical medical and food assistance.

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