The Massive Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen
Yemen is a small country located in the middle east, on the south end of the Arabian Peninsula. Founded in May of 1990, both North Yemen and South Yemen merged into one country after many years of strife. However, many years of prior conflict between both Republics due to cultural and religious differences, economic discord, and government squabble, has contributed to Yemen having internal disputes.
In 2011, tensions rose within Yemen during the transition period between presidencies. Ali Abdullah Saleh was viewed as a particularly authoritarian president, and due to protesting and political uprising, he relinquished his role to current president Abradbbuh Mansour Hadi. This political transition of power created unrest in Yemen as many jihadists and rebels revolted against this new government body. Furthermore, within the government body, many were still loyal to Saleh, leading to corruption within Hadi’s administration. With all these newfound problems, Hadi’s administration was rather weak, leading to the perfect opportunity for the Houthi rebel group to strike.
The Houthi group is a group of Zaydi Shiites. Shiites are a religious group in Islam and Zaydi is a subgroup within Shiites. This group fights against what they believe to be a corrupt government; hence, the conflict between the Houthis and Hadi’s administration. When Hadi became president, this group used the vulnerability of a new government to gain a following and take control of territory. Many within this group were still loyal to the previous president, Saleh. The Houthi group even managed to receive major support from certain sects of the Yemeni military. By 2003, President Hadi started launching military campaigns against the Houthi group. Hadi received support from Saudi Arabia, The United States, United Kingdom, and France.
A civil war officially started in 2014, when the Houthi group took control of the Yemen capital, Sana’a. They essentially demanded a new government, and when that request was not met, they occupied the presidential palace. At this time, President Hadi temporarily resigned. In conjunction with this, Saudi Arabia economically isolated themselves and began sending air strikes against the Houthi rebels. The war between the Houthi rebels and Yemeni government has come to an impasse as neither side seems to have the resources to end the war and as such it rages on.
This contributes to the current humanitarian crisis that the Yemen citizens are facing. It has become one of the most massive crises that a country has faced globally, with around twenty four million people in need of humanitarian services. Within this colossal number, at least half are children who are in critical condition as they are killed in the crossfire of the war. In addition to the deaths caused by the war, Yemen also faces casualties due to famine. There are currently two million children under the age of five who are malnourished. Evidently, the collapsing economy has severely reduced food production, and the country currently requires at least twenty years to recover.
In addition to the already prevalent crisis, the emergence of COVID-19 risks the lives of more citizens. They lack basic health supplies and the sanitary conditions within the country are severely underdeveloped. In conjunction with this, the country is short in supply of masks, gloves, oxygen tanks, and even hospital space to treat patients that have contracted the coronavirus. There is a very small supply of testing kits available, causing the virus to spread at heightened rates. While the current number of recorded cases are low (922 cases), Yemen lacks the means to assist those who have already contracted the virus and to prevent the virus from spreading. Many schools already experienced closure due to the ongoing war, leaving one million children without educational opportunities. Now, with the imminent threat of COVID-19, there are around five million children who are out of school.
Due to strenuous conditions of war, many of the women are forced into challenging lifestyles. The percentage of abuse that women are currently experiencing due to the humanitarian crisis has also increased by sixty-three percent as reported by the United Nations. Additionally, the civil war and humanitarian crisis has led to an overall collapse of the economy, forcing women to search for jobs to support their family. This has led to an increase in domestic violence as the role of women within society is beginning to shift.
While the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has impacted the lives of millions within the country, there are groups that work to relieve some of the strains the internal conflict has placed on its citizens. The IRC or International Rescue Committee is a group that provides medical care and protection to those who have lost their households, family members, contracted the coronavirus, experienced abuse, or lack food and water supply. They began working in 2012, and continue to send medical teams that combat the effects of COVID-19. The IRC are currently taking donations to help fund their program. There are multiple other global groups and outreach programs that also help distribute resources and educate individuals on the crisis within Yemen.
Author: Prerana Rao