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Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis

Deteriorating health conditions and overall suffering during the famine crisis are as equally severe as the Holocaust. The current humanitarian crisis in Yemen originates from their ongoing four year long civil war. The Yemeni civil war began on Sunday, March 22, 2015  and due to the lack of global awareness about the war, it is often referenced as ‘the world’s forgotten war’. Yemen’s long lasting war derives from a multitude of causes, but mainly because of their deep rooted political instability. Yemen is located below Saudi Arabia and borders the coast, which would appear to provide economic stability due to their access of ports, but contrary to its location, the government is unstable due to repeated political assassinations and rapid divisions of power. Such divisions of power could be seen most clearly when Northern and Southern Yemen split apart due to the Southern half transitioning into communism. However, Northern and Southern Yemen did attempt to be peaceful, but due to the general dislike of communism, it collapsed when the British Empire invaded and dislodged communism from Southern Yemen, creating one unified country again. Aftwards, an extreme religious group, al Qaeda, started to force Islamic law onto both Muslims and non-Muslims. Al Qaeda is still a present force in eastern Yemen today, taking advantage of the already maddening chaos and causing more distress in Yemen, contributing to the already increasing instability within the country. The unrelenting conflict of power in Yemen suggest future political turmoil because rapid change in leadership reflects instability. For example, when extreme religions do not tolerate different faiths, obtaining political power becomes the best way to not only spread their beliefs, but to also solidify themselves. The main instigators in the Yemeni Civil War are the Houthis because they overthrew the political leader Hadi, and occupy half of Yemen. As a bordering country, Saudi Arabia quickly involved themselves as they wanted to reinstate their ally Hadi due to the Houthis military and religious support in Iran and other sympathetic Arab states. In the chaos of the Civil War, the Yemen people have been driven to famine due to Saudi Arabia barricading transportation of resources. Saudi Arabia essentially controls the economy, and overall health of the people due to their restriction of food and medicine into Houthi Yemen. Their strategy has also been to bomb civilian targets including, “water and transport infrastructure, food production and distribution, roads and transport, schools, cultural monuments, clinics and hospitals, and houses, fields and flocks”. Saudi Arabia hopes that in attacking the health of the people, a breaking point would trigger an uprising to overthrow the Houthis. As a result of the combination of things listed above, the Yemeni people are solely living off of outside resources supplied by sympathizers including the United Kingdom, the United States, and France. Recently, the famine has gained a lot of social media traction and the attention of UNICEF and the United Nations to help the innocent civilians. Social media coverage includes The New York Times stating an estimated 85,000 children, under the age of 5, dead due to malnutrition, so far. Now that this famine has gained global attention and the support of the public, governments and organizations have more influence to help the Yemen children than ever before. Organizations must use the influence garnered with extreme purpose and direction to produce the largest possible effect in Yemen.

One of the most crucial organizations helping the Yemen children is UNICEF, a non-profit organization devoted to helping the ‘most disadvantaged children’. Currently, 1.7 million children in Yemen suffer from acute malnutrition and it has been difficult to supply aid to a majority of children. UNICEF has tried to increase their aid and support to areas becoming more and more malnourished in correspondence to the escalating conditions caused by the civil war over the past four years, but hasn’t been enough. Supplies and medicine to treat malnourishment are already difficult to receive due to the very restrictive borders, but that’s not their only problem. They have also stated that a majority of families do not have enough money to buy food to begin with, and can rarely fully treat malnourishment for their children as it takes multiple prolonged visits to the hospital. This combined with the fact that impoverished rural homes do not have direct access to hospitals located in cities, and with transportation becoming more expensive due to fuel rations, the overall cost of treating malnutrition is far more than just the treatment itself. There are also 462,000 children who have severe acute malnutrition, an escalated form of acute malnutrition, and are in life and death circumstances. This extreme wartime induced famine is a recurrence in history and harks back to the Holocaust. When looking back, the similarities become extremely apparent, and after looking at the documentation of what Holocaust concentration camp victims ate compared to what the children in Yemen are eating, the children in Yemen might actually be even more malnourished than the Jews that were in concentration camps. A person that had been looking at the malnutrition of Jews in concentration camps stated that “I took a look at some, and I would estimate the average weight probably might have been eighty, ninety pounds or so.” Amal Hussein, a Yemen girl, is just one example of thousands of Yemen children in similar situations. Amal Hussein is the seven-year-old girl in the photo above, and she died a week after the photo was taken of severe acute malnutrition. Thousands and thousands of children just like her are having their lives ripped away as a result of Yemen’s civil war. The present and past are already heartbreakingly devastating, and the future is as equally catastrophic when Holocaust survivors tell of their remaining effects from malnutrition. Being severely starved for such long durations has left many survivors finding themselves hoarding food, and having higher chances of cancer, osteoporosis, and other medical conditions. UNICEF and other organizations are helping these children, but it also takes the combined effort of all governments involved to truly attempt to fix this humanitarian crisis. The United States allied with Saudi Arabia because their efforts to reinstate Hadi and minimize the effect of the war on surrounding Arab countries. But, Saudi Arabia blocked roads essential to trainspotting relief to the innocent Yemen people. Because of these actions, in February 2019, the House of Representatives debated pulling United States support from the Saudis due to their involvement in the humanitarian crisis, with the hope that stopping all conflict would keep the crisis from developing any further. They decided that the first step would be pulling American support because our military support was only enabling the conflict. In contrast, it was argued that by pulling American support, the Houthis would see their success, and with rejuvenated spirits, push on and create more conflict. But, the United States House of Representatives passed a measure to end our support. The U.S. and other allies have offered aid, as well as UNICEF, the United Nations, charities, and other non-profits, but as long as Yemen’s war continues, more children will continue to die and the future will become increasingly uncertain as the effects of mass destruction continue.