Yemen is experiencing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and the circuitous route and tangled politics that cargo ships must navigate in order unload their goods on Yemen’s ports helps explain why that is.

Yemen has two main ports, Hodeidah to the north, on the Red Sea and Aden to the south, on the Gulf of Aden. Of these two ports, Hodeidah is by far the bigger one. But Hodeidah is under the control of forces aligned with the Houthi rebels. Aden, on the other hand, is controlled by forces aligned with the internationally recognized government of Yemen —  a government that is militarily backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

The politics and the basic logistics of getting goods into these two ports offers key insights into the dynamics of the conflict in Yemen and can explain why Yemen is experiencing such a profound humanitarian crisis.

My guest today, Scott Paul, is the humanitarian policy lead at Oxfam America. He recently returned from a fact finding trip to the Port of Aden and some of its surrounding towns. He wrote about that experience in a piece on the website Just Security. In this conversation, we briefly discuss the background of the conflict and its main drivers before having a longer conversation about the explanatory power of shipping containers for understanding this conflict.

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