Adding to the misery of a heat wave in June and storms in July, torrential rain and severe flooding, at least 38 people have died in Yemen this week alone, national and international media reported.
In the historic city of Sanaa, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, at least 10 iconic 500-year-old buildings have collapsed, some 80 occupied homes have been destroyed and hundreds of tents housing IDPs have been swept away by the torrents.
On Wednesday evening, the house of Ali Mohammad Hassan Al-Mazjaji’s family in the city of Al-Khokha collapsed. “Before the rescuers could reach us, we waited in the pouring rain on the rubble of our house until morning,” the 50-year-old father told DW.
After a heat wave in June, Yemen was hit hard by torrential rains
Youssef Al-Ghalisi, another Al-Khokha resident, said the floods destroyed tents at a nearby camp for IDPs. “The water was much louder than the children’s screams,” he said, still shocked.
The weather forecast has improved and the rain is expected to stop intermittently this weekend.
“These floods have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation of millions of Yemenis,” said Basheer Al-Selwi, spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen.
After eight years of war between the Iran-backed Houthi militia and the Saudi-backed, internationally recognized government — a conflict widely viewed as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia — the vast majority of Yemenis are in need of international assistance and the country is on the brink of famine.
The situation was further aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. By February, Yemen imported up to 45% of its wheat from Ukraine and Russia.
“Verge of Collapse”
After the first ceasefire, which began before Ramadan this year, the ceasefire was extended again in early August to October 2.
“Apart from the decrease in war casualties, citizens keep telling me that nothing has changed. There are still civilian casualties in Taiz due to indiscriminate shelling by the Houthi group, and landmines and unexploded artillery continue to claim the lives of children,” said Abdulghani Al-Iryani, senior researcher at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies. in an interview with DW.
The roadblock of Taiz, a city and region of 4.5 million people, has turned into a dead end.
Although the opening of that roadblock is key to the ceasefire brokered by UN special envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg, the Houthis say the Saudi-backed government is blocking access to the Houthi-controlled airport in the capital Sanaa remains restricted, and the port of Hodeidah, the roadblock remains in place.
According to the humanitarian aid organization Save the Children, renewed violence broke out in the last week of July, killing 38 children or injuring them despite the ceasefire. This is the highest number of child casualties in one week since early 2020.
“In addition, essential services are on the verge of collapse,” said ICRC spokesman Al-Selwi, adding that only half of the health facilities are now estimated to be functional.
As a result of the ongoing conflict and the associated economic crisis, Yemen is facing the world’s greatest food emergency.
According to several humanitarian organizations, around 16.2 million people – about 70% of Yemen’s population – are suffering from acute food insecurity or worse. 4.7 million children and women who are acutely malnourished are particularly at risk.
Malnutrition and a lack of health facilities have exacerbated the humanitarian crisis
“Severe environmental damage”
Following the Houthi militia’s capture of Sanaa and other cities in 2014, Yemen remains divided into the north, controlled by the Houthi, and the rest of the country, controlled by the Saudi-backed government. Politics in Yemen remains volatile following the launch of the Presidential Leadership Council in April.
The previous president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, had handed over his duties to the leadership council PLC, which is headed by former interior minister Rashad al-Alimi.
“The political situation on the Houthi side, with its clear lines of command, is stable. People are angry but are unable to respond to that anger for fear of strict police control,” said researcher Al-Iryani.
He added that recent fighting in the southern oil-rich Shabwa region, which has resulted in about 30 casualties this week, has contributed to splits in the anti-Houthi coalition, made up of groups linked to Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Al are -Islah Group and other parties supporting the Saudi-led coalition.
“This could make it more difficult for the PLC to start preparing for peace negotiations that could go on forever,” Al-Iryani said.
The current regional tour of Tim Lenderking, the US special representative for Yemen, could not have started at a better time.
Lenderking’s top priorities are promoting the peace process and rallying groups to work together ahead of an impending environmental disaster. The decommissioned Safer oil tanker threatens to break up, leaking more than 1.1 million barrels of oil into the Red Sea.
“An oil spill would exacerbate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, cause severe environmental damage and affect global shipping and other economic activities,” Lenderking’s office said in a statement.
According to his office, urgent measures are needed to avoid this scenario. “With approximately $14 million with no funding and a UN-Houthi agreement to load the oil onto a makeshift ship, we are as close as we’ve ever been to the threat posed by this abandoned tanker previously,” the statement said.
Safia Mahdi in Yemen contributed to this article
Edited by: Milan Gagnon