After nearly three weeks of depriving an already starving country of food and medicine, Saudi Arabia allowed the first United Nations ship access to at least two key Yemeni ports controlled by Houthi rebels.
However, the reopening of the two ports is not going to be enough to cope with what is emerging to be the world's largest famine in decades. Around 7 million people, according to the U.N., are starving in Yemen, which is already struggling amid the world’s worst cholera outbreak, affecting nearly 900,000 people.
Yet, the catastrophic human cost of the two-and-a-half-year war has not deterred Saudi Arabia and its coalition forces to put an end to their airstrike campaign.
For Saudi Arabia, starvation is proving to be an effective tool against the Houthi rebels, who, Riyadh suspects, are backed by its biggest regional rival Iran.
Millions of people in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, are currently only being kept alive by humanitarian assistance, according to Doctors Without Borders.
However, Saudi Arabia isn't the first country to use famine as a war tactic.
As Alex de Waal discussed his new book, "Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine," in a podcast with The Guardian, starvation has always been used as an "effective instrument of mass murder" in history. Case in point: the notorious German Hunger Plan during the Second World War. Via this policy, Nazis tried to deprive millions of Soviet citizens of food.
In fact, during the First World War, the British also waged a "starvation war." From 1914 to 1919, the Allied powers restricted naval supply of raw materials and food to the Central Powers, resulting in thousands of civilian deaths.
Ironically, as millions of Yemenis were starving under Riyadh's food blockade — reminiscent of Nazi Germany — Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, who is heading the military air campaign in Yemen, called Iran’s supreme leader “the new Hitler of the Middle East.”
While Saudi Arabia may have allowed enough food to pass through to feed 1.8 million people in northern Yemen for at least a month, millions more are still starving.
Thumbnail/Banner: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah