Yemen Famine: An Unheard Crisis

On Tuesday, the United Nations requested 2.1 billion dollars to go towards humanitarian efforts in Yemen, a country suffering from civil war and famine.  According the United Nations, 12 million people in Yemen are facing the threat of famine for 2017; 3.3 million are already malnourished, 2.1 million of these people are children, of those 460 thousand are under five.  This malnutrition greatly increases risks of dying from pneumonia or diarrheal disease, particularly for young children.  According to UNICEF 63 thousand children died last year, and it is possible the more died “silent, unrecorded deaths” due to famine.  According to World Food Programme 1 in 5 people are “severely food insecure”.  Another disturbing statistic reported in the Guardian asserts that half of children under five are having their growth stunted by chronic malnutrition.

Beyond those suffering from hunger some 19 million, two-thirds of the nation’s population need assistance and protection due to the chaos and damage to infrastructure and the economy because of the civil war. Yemen has been riddled with social issues since the Arab Spring in 2011.  The civil war began as a struggle between Iran-allied Houthi groups and Western and Saudi Arabia backed Sunni forces.  Since the civil war began in March 2015 it is estimated that 10 thousand people have died. Extremist groups, such as al-Qaeda, have taken advantage of the chaos and have established strongholds in the country.

Infrastructure problems from lack of public funds, public provision, and damage from airstrikes contribute to the threats to human rights and safety. Much of this is civilian infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, ports, factories, etc. This includes Yemen’s main port, Hodeida, which is badly damaged and delayed deliveries of supplies and goods that people need.

Since 2016, blockades aimed at hurting the Houthi rebels have also harmed citizens. This has exacerbated the problem of starvation by leading to food price spikes. For example, prices of flour are 55% higher. Between the war and the ensuing social catastrophes, the odds are stacked against the poorest individuals. Jamie McGoldrick, UN humanitarian coordinator, states that “people can’t afford transport to feeding centers or hospitals” making it difficult to impossible for people to get the aid they need. Stephen O’Brien, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, further stresses that people “need timely, unimpeded access, and adequate resources.”

Amongst the people, there is not much hope. “Either we die from the bombing or from the hunger” said one woman, struggling to keep her family alive and children fed. The hopelessness was echoed by another woman in a similar situation. “My message to the world is, ‘Please stop the war’, but I think my message is useless, they won’t be able to bring back who I have lost,” she told reporters from the Guardian.  They are just two of the many people struggling to feed their families and themselves.  Without aid soon their situation will likely remain bleak.

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