Yemen is suffering through an onslaught of disasters – from the civil war to a health crisis. However, its humanitarian emergency is not drawing nearly enough of the attention it needs on an international stage. As a result, many people aren’t even aware of the height of the crisis and don’t understand the level of devastation in the country.
For reference, Yemen is a Middle Eastern country located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. Home to a vast desert expanse, the country also has coastal plains and steep mountain peaks.
Let’s start here. The civil war in Yemen began years ago, in 2015, following an Arab Spring uprising. Protests forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over his position to his second in command, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Once Hadi assumed power, he was faced with a plethora of issues including a separatist movement, corruption, famine, and unemployment. Hadi struggled to properly address all of these issues and was quickly viewed as a feeble leader.
After a while, the Houthi Rebel movement saw Hadi’s fragility as an opportunity to gain power and took control of the northern part of the country. As Hadi continued to demonstrate weakness, more and more Yemenis began to support the Houthi movement. Gradually, as support grew, the rebels gained more control of the country, including the capital of Sanaa.
Shocked at the expanding power of the rebel Houthi group, Saudi Arabia along with various Sunni Arab states began a pro-government campaign with the intention of ending Iranian influence as well as returning full power to Hadi. This coalition has since gained support from the US, France, and the UK.
Pro-government troops arrived in Yemen in 2015 and successfully drove rebel forces out from the south of Yemen. However, Houthi forces were still present in a large part of the country.
The warring intensified and by 2017, the coalition tightened their blockade in an effort to prevent weapon flow to the rebels from Iran, though the Iranian government has denied it.This consequently pushed people even deeper into food insecurity as prices skyrocketed and availability lessened. At this point, Houthis also continued operations to further take control of the capital.
The blockade has since been relaxed, but its harsh impact is still felt.
Then, in 2018, the coalition began an operation to capture the city of Hudaydah.
After several months of fighting, the opposing parties met in Sweden and came to an agreement that required them to create a prisoner exchange system, redeploy forces from Hudaydah, and address the situation in Taiz where Houthis are maintaining a siege. However, these conditions have not been met and people worry that the agreement will not be upheld. Specifically, troops have yet to be redeployed from Hudaydah, raising fears that the battle will resume.
This is an especially disturbing fear, as the port of Hudaydah is crucial to a majority of Yemen’s population. If the port is destroyed, the UN claims that it will be impossible to avoid the immense loss of life caused by famine.
The UN had hoped that the Stockholm agreement would eventually lead to the end of the civil war. Those hopes were eventually shattered, however, when fighting between Houthis and coalition-led forces escalated again in January 2020.
Since the conflict began, over three million people have been displaced and more than 24 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance right now. Over half of the population does not have access to healthcare or clean water. And, as a result of the war, over 100,000 people have died.
While the violence continues to escalate, the people of Yemen are facing a number of other threats.
Yemen has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. As people continue to be displaced due to the violence, they become more vulnerable to the virus. While there have been 941 confirmed cases, it is believed that the number of cases is much higher than the reported number due to limited testing.
Simultaneously, Yemenis are also currently facing the largest cholera epidemic on record. Since the epidemic started in 2017 there have been an estimated 2.3 million cases of cholera. It’s believed that the epidemic was severely intensified by the effects of the civil war, including food and economic instability.
As the conflict continues to worsen and exacerbate the effects of both the pandemic and epidemic, it’s imperative we do our part. Here’s what you can do to help.
A large percentage of people in Yemen are unable to access necessary resources such as healthcare and food. Donating is an important form of charity that helps organizations provide people with resources. Listed here are just a few charitable groups that are dedicated to supporting the people in Yemen.
Save the children: Save the Children is an organization dedicated to providing humanitarian aid to children. They have had a presence in Yemen since 1963, providing children with healthcare assistance as well as providing parents with resources for their children’s welfare.
Islamic Relief Worldwide: Islamic Relief Worldwide is an organization at the frontlines of the Yemen crisis, with offices established throughout the country. For 20 years, they have provided treatment for malnutrition, access to sanitation and hygiene products, access to clean water, and are now working with the World Food Programme to distribute food across the country.
Project Hope: Project Hope is working with three other organizations, MedGlobal, Pure Hands and United Mission for Relief and Development, and is currently working to provide Yemenis with food, medical supplies, and medical services. In the long term, they intend to provide Yemenis with sustainable health programs so they can support themselves.
There are several petitions circulating online that are centered on the Yemen crisis as well as specific issues such as the famine and COVID-19. Here are a few you can sign.
Change.org has a number of petitions including the ones listed below.
Stop the war and end the famine in Yemen
Famine/Genocide in Yemen
Amnesty International: Stop the flow of weapons to Yemen
End Hunger in Yemen
Continue to educate yourself
Due to the complicated political situation in Yemen, many people are not aware of the history and current state of the country. However, as the situation worsens it’s important you take initiative and read up about what’s happening. That means familiarizing yourself with the background of the crisis as well as understanding how people are suffering today. Building on that, when you encounter someone who is either unaware of what’s happening, or apathetic to the situation, spread your knowledge. Increasing awareness of the crisis in Yemen is a crucial action that makes a difference even on an individual basis.
Over the years since the civil war began in Yemen, we’ve ignored the crisis and in our ignorance, tens of millions of people have suffered, and continue to today. We cannot allow the worst humanitarian crisis we’ve encountered in 100 years to be left unaddressed, especially as Western powers continue to contribute to the violence. We must not remain silent. Now is the time to take action.
The action steps mentioned above are not an exhaustive list. For more resources, take a look at the link below.