SANA’A, September 21 – As the wild winter weather approaches, over a million barrels of crude oil is at risk of spilling into the Red Sea from the FSO Safer, a supertanker that has been rusting off the Yemeni coast since 2015, Save the Children warned today.
By October, strong winds and erratic currents are predicted to make oil transportation more hazardous and increase the risk of shipwreck, which will have disastrous humanitarian, environmental and economic consequences for millions of children in an already devastated region.
While the UN announced on Monday that they have finally reached their goal of raising money to remove 1 million barrels of oil from the supertanker, donors have yet to pay their pledges for the first phase of the emergency removal operation to begin.
As world leaders gather in New York this week for the UN General Assembly, Save the Children is calling on the international community to treat the SAFER oil tanker issue as an international emergency and to release funds now to prevent them from getting stuck potential catastrophe. The livelihoods of Yemen’s fishing communities could be instantly wiped out if the aging FSO Safer, which is in a deep state of disrepair, leaks or explodes. Millions of people would be exposed to life-threatening hazardous substances.
Kusai, a 55-year-old fisherman from Hodeidah, said:
“The sea of Yemen will be destroyed if the SAFER tanker leaks. Fish will die, the livelihoods of the entire population of Hodeidah will be destroyed, desalination plants will be damaged, everything will be affected. It will be a great catastrophe and will ruin everything, the sea and the land.”
Any potential spillage could also disrupt activities at the port of Hodeidah, Yemen’s main entry point for aid supplies, deny millions of children access to life-saving aid and paralyze humanitarian aid in the country’s most vulnerable regions. It could also affect coastal desalination plants in Yemen, disrupting the supply of clean water to millions of Yemeni children and their families.
With winter fast approaching, aggressive winds and currents increase the risk of the vessel reaching a breaking point and an oil spill imminent. Failure to act now could lead to a major disaster across the Red Sea region and leave lasting environmental impacts that would significantly worsen the humanitarian situation in Yemen and other vulnerable neighboring countries.
Save the Children Country Director for Yemen Rama Hansraj said:
“Children in Yemen have been through so much. They have been bombed, displaced and their rights violated. Many have had their childhood stolen and their future threatened. However, since the ceasefire agreement came into force, hope has temporarily reignited and the possibility of a bright future has begun to loom. Yet once again, children in Yemen are confronted with a new disaster that has the potential to worsen the aftermath of Yemen’s eight-year war.”
“More than two thirds of the population are already in need of humanitarian assistance and at least half of the population is food insecure. Cutting entire communities off their only source of income and shutting down the country’s main port could bring the entire country to its knees. Children are getting sick, food and clean drinking water are becoming scarce, and humanitarian operations are suffering.
“The international community should act now to prevent another disaster that is likely to spread beyond Yemen’s borders. While we applaud the commitment of governments, corporations and individuals to the UN Pledge Goal, donors urgently need to come together and release their funds to start the clean-up before it’s too late. We have a chance to prevent such a nightmare. However, time is ticking and we must react immediately.”
Save the Children has been working in Yemen since 1963, implementing programs in education, child protection, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and emergency response across most of the country. Save the Children has responded to the incident through its Child Protection Unit, which covers the medical costs of all cases and provides victims and their families with the necessary psychosocial support, as well as any other specific needs needed to build their resilience and reduce the time needed to recover.
For further inquiries please contact:
Ahmad Baroudi +46766355550/ [email protected]
Daphnee Cook +254 717 524 904 / [email protected]