War, Famine, and Disease Plague Ye­men

The McGill Daily - - News - Eloïse Al­baret The Mcgill Daily You can do­nate to: Save The Chil­dren, Unicef, and Ox­fam.

Con­tent warn­ing: death, war, ter­ror­ism

In 2017, 50,000 chil­dren lost their lives due to war in Ye­men. Now, as the UN re­ports, Ye­men faces a famine, which is ex­pected to put 5 mil­lion chil­dren at risk of star­va­tion. For al­most three years Ye­men has en­dured civil war between Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed forces who sup­port Ye­men’s for­mer govern­ment. The Houthi rebels have been fight­ing for terms sur­round­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic de­mands. By the end of this year, the coun­try may be fac­ing “the world’s worst hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter for 50 years,” says Mark Low­cock, the head of the UN Of­fice for the Co­or­di­na­tion of Hu­man­i­tar­ian Af­fairs (OCHA). Seventy-five per cent of the pop­u­la­tion is in need of as­sis­tance, but fight­ing near the main port Hodei­dah is block­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion of vi­tal sup­plies.

In Sep­tem­ber 2014, the Houthi rebel group over­took the cap­i­tal Sana’a and tried to seize Ye­men’s sec­ond largest city, Aden, in or­der to over­throw the govern­ment of Ab­drab­buh Mansur Hadi. In re­sponse to the Houthi’s ac­tions, a coali­tion backed by neigh­bour­ing coun­try Saudi Ara­bia, launched airstrikes in an at­tempt to re­store Ye­men’s of­fi­cial govern­ment. These mis­siles, as well as other weapons and in­tel­li­gence, came from the USA and the UK. With­out this sup­port, it would be dif­fi­cult for Saudi Ara­bia to con­tinue the war. The US has also claimed to have de­ployed a small num­ber of troops on the ground, and France and the UK are also sup­ply­ing the Saudi-led coali­tion with weapons and in­tel­li­gence. Al­though Canada has pro­vided up­wards of $65 mil­lion in hu­man­i­tar­ian aid to Ye­men, it has also sold more than $284 mil­lion in weapons to the coun­tries that are bomb­ing Ye­men. As a re­sult of the war, both Al- Qaeda and ISIL have spread within the coun­try; Al- Qaeda has taken over ter­ri­tory in the south of Ye­men, while ISIL has launched an at­tack killing more than 140 peo­ple. The bomb­ing op­er­a­tions have killed tens of thou­sands of peo­ple and caused the dis­place­ment of over 3 mil­lion. Many mem­bers of the US Congress, as well as hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions, have called for the US and oth­ers to be charged with war crimes for the cri­sis in Ye­men. Ye­men’s peo­ple and econ­omy are suf­fer­ing greatly be­cause of the war; the price of food has dou­bled, and the na­tion’s cur­rency, the Ye­meni riyal, has col­lapsed.

The war has taken a great toll on an al­ready im­pov­er­ished so­ci­ety. Airstrikes are killing civil­ians in hos­pi­tals and schools; most of the ca­su­al­ties are chil­dren. In Au­gust of this year, a Us-backed Saudi mis­sile hit a bus car­ry­ing chil­dren killing at least 29 chil­dren and wound­ing 30 more. Now, cit­i­zens of Ye­men face famine and an out­break of cholera. “We may now be ap­proach­ing a tip­ping point, be­yond which it will be im­pos­si­ble to pre­vent mas­sive loss of life as a re­sult of wide­spread famine across the coun­try,” said Low­cock to the UN’S Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. “We are al­ready see­ing pock­ets of famine-like con­di­tions, in­clud­ing cases where peo­ple are eat­ing leaves.” Last year, the UN de­clared that Ye­men had seen “the world’s worst cholera out­break,” with a mil­lion sus­pected cases in De­cem­ber 2017 and 5,000 new cases be­ing re­ported each day — over 2,300 lives have been lost. Even though Ye­men has since re­duced and re­cov­ered some­what from the disease, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion has re­ported that the coun­try is about to face a third wave of cholera.

The fight­ing near the port of Hodei­dah is mak­ing it nearly im­pos­si­ble to get any sort of aid to cit­i­zens. Un­der­staffed and un­der- equipped health cen­tres are notic­ing a spike in the amount of mal­nour­ished pa­tients they come across. In Au­gust, As­lam’s health cen­tre saw up to 99 cases of mal­nu­tri­tion, half of which were in the most se­vere stages. The UN is try­ing to raise more money and re­sources for the peo­ple of Ye­men, but Low­cock claims that “hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tions sim­ply can­not look af­ter the needs of all 29 mil­lion Ye­me­nis. That is un­ten­able.”

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