Donald Trump Says 'Yemen Is Getting Better,' But Civilian Casualties Have Increased 164 Percent

While speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said the situation in Yemen is improving, but civilian casualties in Yemen's war have increased dramatically since June, when the Saudi-led coalition began its offensive to gain control of Hodeidah.

An average of 166 civilians have died on each of the four months since the coalition effort to control the western port city started, according to data from monitoring group Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED). This figure represents a 164-percent increase in non-combatant fatalities.

"Hodeidah accounted for 51 percent of all civilian casualties in Yemen between June and August this year," Save the Children said, citing ACLED figures. "During that three-month period, there were at least 349 civilian deaths, with a national total of 685 civilians killed."

The country's four-year war pits the Saudi-led coalition against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.

The United Nations reports that at least 10,000 people have died since the start of the conflict in March 2015, although the number is likely much higher, according to Al Jazeera. Over 22 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

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A woman walks in a shantytown near the port of Hodeidah, Yemen, on June 16. Civilian casualties have risen significantly since the Saudi-coalition began its effort to take over Hodeidah. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

Human rights organizations decried the civilian conditions while speaking at the United Nations General Assembly this week.

"August was the most violent month of 2018 in Yemen with nearly 500 people killed in just nine days," International Rescue Committee's Yemen director Frank McManus said. "Since 2015, the coalition has undertaken 18,000 airstrikes – one every 99 minutes – one-third of which have hit non-military targets."

In a separate statement, 14 groups including Oxfam and Save the Children said "civilians continue to bear the brunt. Civilians and civilian infrastructure, such as markets, hospitals, school buses and mills continue to be hit by all parties with impunity, as reported by the UN group of eminent experts on Yemen."

In a report for the United Nations Human Rights Council last month, human rights experts said they had "reasonable grounds to believe that the Governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are responsible for human rights violations, including unlawful deprivation of the right to life, arbitrary detention, rape, torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and child recruitment, and serious violations of freedom of expression and economic, social and cultural rights, in particular the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to health," according to NPR.

The U.N. previously reported that the Saudi-led coalition was responsible for the majority of civilian casualties in Yemen in 2017.

Despite human rights concerns, major weapons suppliers have not halted sales to Riyadh. Although Trump described the conflict as a "horrible, horrific civil war" while speaking at the U.N. on Tuesday, Saudi Arabia imports 61 percent of its arms from the U.S., according to 2017 data from The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The U.K. sends Riyadh 23 percent of its imports, and other European countries provide 15 percent of arms to the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia imports only one percent of its weapons from the rest of the world.

Donald Trump Says 'Yemen Is Getting Better,' But Civilian Casualties Have Increased 164 Percent | World