An international aid agency said on Tuesday that a fuel shortage in Yemen may cause more deaths than the ongoing conflict between the country’s government and Houthi rebels, which erupted again after a supposedly one-week-long humanitarian truce brokered by the United Nations.
Oxfam, an international charity providing humanitarian aid in Yemen, has said that the fighting and fuel import restriction has affected food deliveries, health services and water supply all over the country which has led to a humanitarian crises.
A Saudi-led coalition began an extensive air campaign targeting Houthi-held cities across Yemen on March 26 to allow president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and his government, who are in self-imposed exile in Riyadh, to return to Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
"In Yemen, fuel is critical," Oxfam country director for Yemen Philippe Clerc said in a statement.
"Without adequate supplies of it, water pumps no longer operate, and the limited quantities of food and medicine in Yemen's main ports and warehouses spoil, as they can't be transported to the 21 million people in need of aid."
Oxfam has called for a permanent ceasefire in Yemen and the lifting of restrictions on imports.
"Otherwise, this ever deepening, man-made and totally avoidable humanitarian crisis will drain the country of the few resources it has and push people to the edge," Clerc said.
"Without urgent action, shortages could kill more people than bullets or bombs."
A week-long ceasefire was meant to start from Saturday until the end of Ramadan to allow deliveries of aid, but the Saudi-led coalition said Yemeni President Hadi, in whose name it is acting, did not ask for a truce. More air strikes by coalition warplanes have been targeting Yemeni cities.
According to the spokesman of UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, Stephane Dujarric, the UN chief was "very much disappointed that the humanitarian pause did not take hold over the weekend," but said that the international body had not "lost hope and discussions are ongoing."
The United Nations has declared the maximum level of humanitarian emergency in Yemen, and warned of an imminent collapse of the country’s health system.
Around 20 million Yemenis suffer from a lack of water and a million people have been displaced from their homes as a result of the armed conflict in the country.
Oxfam warned that at least 400,000 Yemeni children are at risk of becoming severely malnourished if the situation in Yemen continues as it has been.
The US State Department said in a statement that a truce should be enforced to allow relief organisations to deliver desperately needed aid, food, medicine and fuel to Yemenis.
The blockade of most Yemeni ports has made relief supplies inaccessible. However, the international Red Cross said that a ship carrying tons of food and three large electric generators docked in the port of Hodeida last week.
The Houthis took control of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last September, before expanding control over more territory in the country.
In the city of Aden alone more than 858 Yemeni civilians were killed, including 259 children, and 6,879 others were wounded in the first 102 days of conflict.
More than 3,000 people, including 1,500 civilians, have been killed in the conflict since March, according to the UN.