Humanitarian Crisis In Yemen


Yemen has been plagued with a civil war since 2015. The combination of international interference, political instability, and the United States (U.S) counter-terrorism efforts have given way to violence and insurgency in the country. The forces fighting against each other are a rebel group, the Houthis, and the installed government. The Houthis are a Shiite rebel group resisting the Sunni government in Yemen; the rebel group took control of the capital in 2014 which sparked the violence and has since escalated. In April 2015, Iran and Saudi Arabia began involvement in the conflict by supplying rebels with weapons and supplies, strengthening the divide between the Sunni and Shia Islam in Yemen. The war could also be seen as a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia; although the Houthis are not involved in Irani affairs, Tehran’s best interest is in keeping Saudi Arabia involved in Yemen. The Unites Nations (UN) mediated peace talks in an effort to find a resolution for the Yemeni government, however unsuccessful. The instability has made Yemen vulnerable to the emergence of terrorist and insurgent groups, such as al-Qaeda. The emergence led to a prompted response in April 2016 from the U.S, who assisted the Arab-led mission to regain territory seized by al-Qaeda. The war has imposed a humanitarian crisis on the already poverty-stricken country which is now on the brink of famine. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the brutal military involvement against Yemen. Moreover, despite involvement from the UN and other humanitarian organizations, peace plans are disregarded and human rights are unprotected. The threat of a rising Islamic State is very pressing and provides security threats to the U.S as well as adds to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

In 2014, the president drafted a new constitution that remodelled the Yemeni government. This was resisted by Houthis and the former president Saleh, who had ties with the Houthis. The resistance ignited a war in 2014 due to concerns over land control and boundaries. The constitution laid out divisions of the land in ways the rebels believed were unequal. The first attempts at ceasing the violence occurred in June of 2015 when the UN attempted to negotiate peace talks but ultimately failed. The peace talks were based on the notion of restoring the government, ridding them of factions and uniting the nation as a single-nation state. Recently, the U.S has become more involved in the conflict, offering support to the Saudi-led military in counterterrorism efforts. Under Obama, the US halted their campaign of sending munition and aid to the Saudi army due to the casualty toll taken on civilians. However, current U.S president Trump wants to increase the flow of aid to the army to oppose terrorism. Although there have been efforts to fix the situation in Yemen, all have failed to address the lack of cohesion in the country. The concerns of international players involved in the conflict lie in their worries for the future of Yemen and what will happen if the situation continues to get worse. Humanitarian efforts have been made, however not enough aid or support has been sent to solve the crises.

The issue lies within the intervention of outside forces. The involvement of Saudi Arabia, Iran and the U.S have drawn Yemen into unresolvable conflict if all involved parties continue supporting conflict. Rapidly expanding military involvement from the U.S will not only increase tension between the U.S and terrorist groups, but will also subject Yemeni civilians to dangerous, life-threatening conditions. Aid needs to come from humanitarian organizations. Further, any aid should be focused on protecting and preserving the lives of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a poor governmental organization and political instability. If the current situation continues, the Houthis will continue to try and cut Yemen off from the international port in the Red Sea. The battle for the port has put Yemeni civilians on the brink of starvation. In combination with the heightening militaristic tensions, the country is due to plunge further into crisis. Both sides need to negotiate on borders and control to facilitate democratic elections to restore the government and cease the fighting. If aid can draw the civilians away from starvation, and rebuild cities and the economy, the humanitarian crisis could be diminished. Starting from the ground up, finding something that could be produced in Yemen, such as an industry like an alternative development of energy (investments in solar energy), would provide jobs and kickstart the economy. This could give people opportunities for an improved livelihood. If the economy could be improved, the government would have money to stabilize the country. It would be a slow process, but overall the improvement of the economy would prevent terrorist insurgency and draw Yemeni people out of famine and poverty.

The U.S should not send aid to the Saudi military coalition. Supporting the violence only makes the humanitarian situation worse. Until the violence stops, it is question begging whether the efforts will be focused on rebuilding the country and government. Yemen has the ability to defend itself but involvement from foreign powers will only irritate the Yemenis and terrorist groups. The UN needs to hold the Saudi government and the Iranian government’s accountable for the war crimes committed against the Yemeni people. If Saudi Arabia withdrew forces and paid reparations to Yemen as a bargain for the atrocities committed against the country and it’s people, perhaps Yemen could use the reparations, with help from government advising, to rebuild infrastructure and community.

There is no excuse for valuing conflict and border territories over basic human rights. As world leaders, the U.S and Britain need to stop supporting the violence and negotiate non-combative means of changing the situation of the country and halting the destruction of the lives of innocent Yemeni civilians.

Eva McLafferty

Eva McLafferty

Undergraduate student studying International Relations and Antrhopology. Passionate about human rights and politics.
Eva McLafferty