10,000 dead, 40,000 casualties and 3 million people displaced, this is the harsh reality of living in Yemen in 2018 as a humanitarian crisis ensues the country. This has been the story for the last 3 years as a bloody war has ravished the nation. But how did Yemen get here?
To give a basic crash course on Yemeni politics, you have to look at the given context. We are all aware of the Arab Spring of 2011. The Arab Spring was a wave of revolution that swept the Middle East encouraging protests in nearly every country down in the gulf. Yemen was no exception, Yemenis rose up in protest of the 34-year authoritarian rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh demanding a democracy based on Islamic values. Eventually, President Saleh did resign in 2012, handing the government over to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi but it was much too late as an environment of hostility allowed for splinter groups to form; most notably, the Houthis who have been campaigning in Yemen for years. The Houthis do not agree with the Yemeni Government’s idea of separating Yemen into 6 nation states and is now at war with the government battling alleged corruption.
The conflict has also gained international attention, getting more countries involved. Saudi Arabia took it upon themselves to battle the conflict against the Houthis, forming a coalition with Kuwait, The UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, and Senegal. Furthermore, the UK, USA, and France have backed this coalition. The conflict is also viewed as Saudi Arabia’s ‘cold war’ with Iran. Saudia Arabia shares a border with Yemen and fears Iranian expansionism through Iran’s support of Shi’a militant groups in Yemen.
What does this mean for the Yemeni people?
The UN has already officially said that Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis it has seen in the last 50 years. Getting accurate figures on the death toll is difficult but one aid agency called ‘Save the Children’ estimated 50,000 children died in 2017, averaging 130 a day. The United Nations has estimated that Saudi led airstrikes have caused two-thirds of the casualties, while the Houthi rebels are accused of causing mass civilian casualties due to their siege of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city.
Displacement is another issue affecting the Yemeni population. The UN released figures of 3 million Yemenis have fled their homes and are now elsewhere in the country struggling to find refuge. 280,000 Yemenis have sought asylum in other countries such as Somalia. Internally displaced Yemenis face major problems such as lack of food and inadequate shelter. In a recent video by The Guardian, a young boy Ahmed recalls ‘Before the war, you could eat whatever you want/ now it’s a bit of tea and just a handful of food, one bite only’.
Healthcare is also a primary concern that needs urgent attention. Lacking facilities to cater to the wounded, chances of survival in Yemen are slim. To make things worse, Yemen is also battling a cholera outbreak amidst the war. Malnutrition and damage to infrastructure, sanitation and water systems caused by Saudi Coalition led airstrikes is attributed to the crisis. 14.5 million people in Yemen do not have access to clean water or sanitation facilities as a result of damages caused by airstrikes.
Getting aid to Yemen is extremely difficult. The Houthis who have seized the city of Taiz have prevented critical medical supplies from arriving. Saudi Arabia has also pressured aid groups into leaving rebel-controlled parts of Yemen alone, saying aid workers are at risk. In January 2016, a hospital operated by doctors without borders was hit by a rocket killing 4 people. Previous to that, 5 doctors died in 2015 as a result of a bombing carried out by the Saudi led coalition.
Having no stable government since 2011 and a bloody war which has been raging onwards with the last 3 years, Yemen is one of the worst humanitarian crisis to be witnessed in the 21st century and could be one of the worst crises we witness in our lifetime.