The Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, currently held by Houthi rebels, is seen as a strategic interest in the war between the rebels and the Saudi-led coalition, the latter of which supports Yemen's deposed government. With sources alerting the UN and other humanitarian agencies of an impending attack on Hodeidah by the Saudi coalition, these organizations have warned of the terrible impacts such an attack would have on the civilians there.
Yemen is currently in the throes of an enormous humanitarian crisis due to the years-long conflict, as over 17 million civilians are facing famine with little pathway to food security. The UN has estimated that several billions of US dollars are needed to mitigate the crisis, but only 15 percent of the current $2 billion USD appeal has been funded so far. As of now, Hodeidah is one of the only main ports capable of receiving desperately needed food and supplies into the country. Therefore, humanitarian officials have warned that an attack on the Houthi-held city would dramatically worsen the already precarious situation for not only the citizens of Hodeidah but for all Yemenis that rely on the city for food imports and humanitarian assistance. Alexander Ventura, head of Yemen's mission for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), has stated that the country's healthcare system and medical services are "on the verge of collapse." It is possible that enhanced conflict in Hodeidah would push these services past their breaking point.
Furthermore, the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently doubled its estimates on the number of people in the city that would be displaced should an attack occur, increasing the number to over 400,000. Such a large outpouring of people from Hodeidah would create chaos and make it even harder for humanitarian assistance to make it into the city, according to Mohammed Abdiker, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies. The situation would be catastrophic to the newly displaced as well as the already 270,000 internally displaced civilians inside the city.
IOM recommends peace talks between the Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition, if only because a ceasefire is the only way to ensure the safety of civilians in Hodeidah and Yemen as a whole. “Humanitarian action alone can never bring the peace all people in Yemen deserve. [IOM] advocates for dialogue and peace talks, rather than the use of military force, which puts the lives of Yemenis and humanitarians in extreme danger," Abdiker asserted.
Humanitarians have called upon the international community to pressure the Saudi-led coalition to avoid escalation of the conflict in Hodeidah, adding that providing humanitarian assistance to Yemen rather than weapons would be crucial to resolving the crisis. It remains to be seen if the coalition will conduct an attack on the city, but even if it does not, Yemen is still in critical need of humanitarian aid to even hope for a resolution of the crisis.