The crisis started when a political transition was meant to bring stability to Yemen. But the political transition failed, causing an Arab Spring uprising, which led to longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh handing his position over to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2011. Hadi had a hard time dealing with a variety of issues, including a separatist movement in the south, attacks by jihadists, the continued loyalty of the security personnel to Saleh, corruption, food insecurity and unemployment.
There was a Houthi movement also known as the Ansar Allah, which rebelled against Saleh in the last decade. They took advantage of the newly appointed president’s weakness and took control of the northern areas of the Saafa province and neighbouring areas. Many civilians supported the Houthis, including the Sunnis. Sunni is considered to be the more traditional branch of Islam and is more mainstream, making up 87% to 90% of Muslims. From late 2014 to early 2015, the Houthis slowly took over the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. Saudi Arabian officials predicted that the rebellion would only last for several weeks. However, four years of military stalemate have been in place since.
Saudia Arabia’s oil fields in Khurais and Abquiq were attacked by air forces, halting almost half of the oil production. Globally speaking, this is about 5% of the global oil output. While the Houthis said they were responsible for this attack, Saudia Arabia and America accuse Iran.
As of mid-June, the UN has estimated that approximately 7,700 civilians have died prior to March 2020 due to Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. Despite this, monitoring groups argue that the death toll is much higher. Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) mentioned that in October 2019, there were more than 100,000 deaths (which includes 12,000 civilians who died due to direct attacks). In 2019 - the most lethal year due to the political wars between Yemen and Iran and the political war between the Houthis and the government. - more than 23,00 deaths were recorded.
Amidst severe military unrest, Yemen is also facing several devastating health crises. Save the Children, a charity, mentioned that about 85,000 children with ‘severe acute malnutrition’ may have passed between April 2015 and October 2018. Right now, about 24 million Yemenis -80% of the population - recruit humanitarian protection and assistance. Approximately 20 million require aid in securing food, and child malnutrition rates have jumped by 200% in the past 2 years. Colette Gadenne, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) head of mission said, “There is a system in place - feeding centers, nutritional programmes - but it is very difficult to monitor these programmes, and I fear that many families cannot just afford to even go, to even reach the facility, to be screened and to be admitted in the programme. The whole system is really collapsing. Hospitals are closing regularly, so it’s very frightening to see how this country, which was already affected by poverty and poor governance, is going deeper and deeper every day.”
The BBC News writes, “Children dying in hospital hallways. Four sick people crammed into one bed.” The BBC journalist who visited the hospitals in 2017 mentions the hospital smelt more of body odour than vomit and diarrhoea due to how overcrowded the healthcare facilities in Yemen are. The accelerating rate of cholera cases in Yemen and inefficient healthcare poses a huge threat to the country. This overcrowded yet underfunded and undersupplied healthcare system provides a massive breeding ground for infectious diseases such as cholera.
Yemen’s recent cholera outbreak has infected more than 200,000 people across the country. This has unfortunately caused over 1,300 deaths, and a further 500,000 people are expected to become ill. Professionals say that preventing cholera is theoretically simple: drink clean water, eat cooked food, drink boiled water and wash your hands with clean water. The problem? Clean water in Yemen is a luxury. The sewer had stopped working 10 days after the cholera hit, 17th of April. Not only is Yemen dealing with a cholera epidemic (disease that affects a large population within a community or region), they are also facing the Coronavirus pandemic (an epidemic that is spread over multiple continents or countries). The scarcity of clean water is increasing the spread of the coronavirus leaving 9.8 million children with insufficient access to hygiene, sanitation and clean water. Additionally, UNICEF tells us that 7.8 million will not be able to gain access to education due to school closure. “We cannot overstate the scale of this emergency as children, in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, battle of survival as COVID-19 takes hold. If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die. The international community will be sending a message that the lives of children in a nation devastated by conflict, disease and economic collapse, simply do not matter,” stated the UNICEF Yemen representative.
So, what can you do to help? First of all, the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) is asking for donations here. If you would like to and can donate to help the Yemeni secure food, water and medical supplies and thus end the crisis in Yemen, please do so. Moreover, there are two Card Co’s provided below which list out educational resources, where to donate, petitions to sign and more: the Yemen Crisis Carrd (carrd.co) and the Yemen Human Crisis Carrd. Additionally, sisters Esha and Meher Gidwani have opened up an Instagram account called Cookies For Cause. Their mission is to bake cookies, sell them and to donate all proceeds to the UN to help Yemen. If you would like to order some, check out their Instagram page here.