Why Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis


THE MORNING CALL  – 1/25/2021: Your View: Why Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis

Yemen’s people are dying — because of bombs, because of scarcities of essential goods, because of illness and lack of food. For five years, a naval and air blockade has prevented the importation of food, fuel and medicine.

What the United Nations labeled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis is due to armed struggle between Yemen’s fragile government and a rebel group known as the Houthis. The rebels get some support from Iran, while the government is backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who in turn get arms from the U.S. and the United Kingdom.

The rebels have been accused by Human Rights Watch of standing in the way of getting aid to the country. Media reports indicate the Saudi Air Force bombs civilian targets with munitions bought from the U.S.

A coalition of Yemeni and peace organizations that includes the Yemeni Alliance Committee, Stop the War and Action Corps and many others has issued a call for a Global Day of Action for Yemen on Jan. 25.

Peace advocates are calling on American citizens: 1) to demand that Congress act to end the Saudi naval blockade and work to reopen Yemen’s airports and sea routes; 2) urge Congress to pressure the U.S. Agency for International Development to restore and expand aid into Yemen; and 3) stop selling arms to the Saudi-led coalition.

In the Lehigh Valley, the Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern is supporting the Global Day with vigils in Allentown and Easton.

With 80% of the country’s 30 million people needing food aid, Yemen is on the brink of famine. The numbers of displaced people exceed 3.5 million. Nearly half of Yemeni children are suffering from malnutrition and show evidence of stunted growth. One million women and 2 million children are at risk of starvation.

Thousands of Yemenis died from cholera in the last four years, and a shattered health care system has left the country vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Other diseases including dengue fever, diphtheria, polio, measles and SARS, exacerbate the already dire predicament of the suffering people.

The film “Hunger Ward” discloses, in graphic detail, the struggles within two hospitals in Yemen to treat the children who are suffering from malnutrition and the effects of war. A nurse in the film states, “If we don’t lose the children to malnutrition, we lose them to the bombs.”

The film will be shown by the Friends Committee on National Legislation in a free public screening on Feb. 4. Tickets are available at https://gathr.us/screening/31731.

The desperate situation in Yemen is not a natural disaster; it is entirely attributable to human action. It’s a complex history that starts with a rebellion in Yemen and the subsequent invasion of the country by Saudi Arabia.

Yemen’s Saudi-backed government is complicit in the continuing violence.. The United States and the United Kingdom are involved, especially, as they sell arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. A recent deal made in Washington authorized $23 billion in arms for UAE.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently said he wants to declare the Houthi rebels a terrorist organization. Aid organizations fear the designation will interrupt the flow of necessities to Yemen, which imports 90% percent of its food.

The United Nations anticipates that 16 million people will go hungry this year. A small famine is underway, with about 50,000 people starving to death. Another 5 million are in danger.

Despite the tangled political situation in Yemen, there have been sporadic attempts to find a negotiated settlement. It is time for the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom, France and other western nations to find a peaceful solution to the violence and allow Yemen to heal and govern itself without outside interference.

The founder of the Yemeni Alliance Committee, Jehan Hakim, is living in the United States but many of her family are in Yemen and facing the ordeal. She has visited her country of origin. Saddened and alarmed by what she has seen, she notes that “our country is beautiful.”

With changes in policy among western nations, this beautiful country will once again find peace and security.

Concerned American citizens should urge President Biden to end the United States’ involvement in Yemen and urge Congress to authorize humanitarian aid. To find out what you can do, call LEPOCO at 610-691-8730.

Janet Ney is a member of the steering committee of Lehigh-Pocono Committee of Concern.