Yemen is currently facing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis – the country is in dire need of aid or else it faces the increasingly likely prospect of extinction.
Over the last five years, Yemen has been devastated by the atrocities of civil war that have pushed the poorest Arab nation as close to breaking point as it gets, yet it is Coronavirus that may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
As of June 15, Yemen, which borders Saudi Arabia and Oman, has reported 844 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 208 deaths but the undeniable reality is that numbers will be much more abundant than this – the country simply does not have the capacity or resources to carry out testing on all suspected patients.
According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are a staggering 24.1 million citizens in need in the country. This is approximately 80% of the population, with around 2 million children affected.
The civil war was triggered by uprising against the government, particularly against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was made to hand over power to his then deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi in 2012. The Houthi rebels, a Zaidi Shia movement, began to work alongside Saleh but they assassinated him in 2017 for suspected treachery.
Houthis battled against the government for years and intensified their rebellion upon hearing of Hadi’s plans to divide the nation into a six-region federation. Soon after, the struggling Hadi administration sought out a coalition with Saudi Arabia to re-establish control. The United States, France and the UK continue to supply Saudi Arabia with a wealth of weapons and intelligence, and here lie the geo-political complexities of the conflict.
In 2015, the coalition introduced a naval and air blockade, which prevents food, medicine, and necessities from reaching civilians. This is, no doubt, a violation of international humanitarian law which stipulates that citizens who are not, or are no longer, participating in hostilities must be protected. As a result, the charities that can actually reach civilians with aid are those with an established base in Yemen.
If war and a viral pandemic weren’t enough of a strain on struggling citizens, the country also faces a Chikungunya virus outbreak, cholera and diphtheria – it is safe to say the already strained healthcare system is overwhelmed. Crowded living conditions have made PPE, masks, and the practice of social distancing, a luxury for the privileged.
Famine has left 2 in 3 Yemeni citizens struggling to buy food and access continues to worsen each day. It is also reported that UNICEF must raise $30 million by the end of this month or else water and sanitation services will have to be shut off.
UNICEF is not the only charity making urgent appeals to the global population, elsewhere Save The Children, Project Hope, Baitulmaal, and Islamic Relief are campaigning to raise money for food, water, and essential items which have become increasingly unaffordable.
Sami Jassar, an employee at Islamic Relief Yemen notes that: “Since March 2015 the situation has got worse… essential goods, such as food, have more than doubled in price”.
Whilst discussing the crisis with Sky News, Jean-Nicolas Beuze, who heads up the UN Refugee Agency in Yemen, attributed difficulties to the lack of funding from donor countries whose priorities have had to shift as a result of the Coronavirus.
Beuze told the broadcaster: “All the humanitarian partners here… are missing critical funding. The UNHCR will be closing, in a few days, a number of lifeline programmes. So we will be leaving 3.6 million internally displaced and 280,000 refugees without any form of assistance. It’s a life and death situation for them”.
As difficulties become insurmountable, and an innocent child dies every ten minutes, we can no longer afford to ignore the country’s cries for help. The end of this humanitarian crisis depends on immediate global intervention. It depends on us.
If you would like to facilitate change, please consider donating to the following charities, signing these petitions, or writing a letter to your Member of Parliament (UK):
Petitions and Letters