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The Saudi Arabia-led coalition and the Yemeni government blocked four oil tankers from entering the Hudaidah port on the Red Sea, in a move that will likely worsen the health crisis occurring in the war-torn country.
The Hudaidah port is currently controlled by the Houthi rebels, a Shiite militant group that is backed by Iran. The Saudi coalition is trying to contain the spread of Iranian influence in the region by fighting a proxy war for control of the Bab al Mandab strait, which controls oil traffic to the booming markets of sub-Saharan Africa.
Yemen has reported over 400,000 cases of cholera in recent months. The disease is spread through polluted water, which require water pumps—which in turn require fuel to run. Oil is also required to power hospitals and other critical infrastructure.
The tankers denied entrance to the port contained ten percent of Yemen’s monthly energy needs. Coalition authorities did not give a reason for the tankers’ blockage, Reuters said.
“At a time when Yemen is facing an unprecedented cholera outbreak and millions of its people are at risk of falling into famine, it is essential that all ports remain open and any delays are avoided," spokesman Russell Geekie from the United Nations Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Activities (OCHA) said this week.
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The Yemeni famine has touched 7 million lives so far, almost a third of whom are children. Seventeen million Yemenis are having trouble accessing food supplies, according to the latest estimates from the UN.
The Ras Isa and Saleef ports are also controlled by Houthi forces. Any vessels headed in their direction are at high risk for being intercepted by the Saudi coalition, which suspects that arms are being smuggled to the Houthis in vessels that claim to be delivering food and medical aid.
By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com
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Zainab Calcuttawala is an American journalist based in Morocco. She completed her undergraduate coursework at the University of Texas at Austin (Hook’em) and reports on…