Paolo Lembo, ex-UN Yemen mission chief between 2014 and 2016, still remembers it with dismay.
“In the night between March 25 and 26, 2015 — when the Saudis started bombing Sana’a — we were caught by surprise: the UN didn’t know about it, and there were hundreds of international organizations’ workers who were driven out of the country because insurance companies don’t account for bombs.”
Three years on, Saudi bombings have killed some 15,000, a number which doesn’t account for the many who died for famine or disease, above all the current cholera and diphtheria epidemics. The sunni coalition’s embargo and no-fly zone make it impossible to deliver food and medicines.
Yemen is cut roughly in two: the Houthi rebel-controlled north, and the south, formally in the hands of Mansour Hadi’s government, but actually ruled by separatist militias. Al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State are also present.