Yemen Crisis a 'Humanitarian Catastrophe,' Experts Say

The Yemen crisis has developed into a "humanitarian catastrophe," experts say.

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday that more than 2,000 people have been killed and more than 8,000 injured in the conflict since airstrikes began, and that 8.6 million people are in urgent need of medical help.

In the past, Saudi Arabia has pushed back against reports of civilians being targeted by its airstrikes and said the coalition has "exercised restraint."

However, the panel said dozens of hospitals have had to shut down inside the country, and nearly all that are still operating are powered by generators.

“We are witnessing how the whole health system in the country is literally coming to a halt,” Marco said. “In a matter of 15 days or two weeks there will be hundreds of people who will be dying from this.”

He said HRW has called on the U.S. to exercise pressure on the coalition.

“They have made the case that they are supportive to the coalition but are not a party to the conflict,” Bolopion said. “We are trying to challenge that a little bit, because according to publicly available information the U.S. has been refueling war planes in the air, providing intelligence possibly on some targets, helping with coordination. And if they are in some cases they are a party to the conflict, they could be found to be complicit to some of the violations that have occurred.”

The panel said the Houthis share some of the blame for lack of access to those in need of medical assistance, citing sniper attacks and bombings around hospitals.

“One of the more shocking things is that they reacted to the start of the military operation by recruiting even more children in their ranks,” Bolopion said.

The panel said that the coalition could provide some relief to the health crisis by easing the tight control of Yemen’s border and ports. Bolopion called it “a blockade,” and said it hindered efforts to provide aid to the population during the five-day humanitarian ceasefire earlier this month.

Bolopion said Yemen receives almost 80 percent of its food supply from international shipments.

“It’s hugely dependent on the outside, and the same thing for fuel,” Bolopion said.

Many have classified the conflict in Yemen since Saudi intervention as a proxy war, citing the Houthis’ alignment with Iran.

Robert Blecher, deputy director of the International Crisis Group, said the poor execution of the airstrike campaign has exacerbated a more domestic conflict into a regional powder-keg.

“The longer this goes on, the more and more the Houthis will be forced to have an external patron,” Blecher said. “The highest probability of a direct Iranian-Saudi clash is in Yemen right now.”