The United States Cuts Health Care Aid To Yemen Despite Concerns During The COVID-19 Pandemic

On Friday March 27th, the Trump administration made the difficult decision to cut off all non-lifesaving aid to Yemen. The Houthini rebels opposed to the U.S and Saudi backed government in Yemen have interfered with aid assistance, making it difficult for the US Agency for International Development to know if the aid is being used for legitimate purposes. The decision comes after the U.S has declared a national state of emergency due to COVID-19, which has infected more than 200,000 known U.S citizens.

Yemen, a country stuck in one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, has yet to report any cases of the virus. They are seriously underprepared. If COVID-19 reaches Yemen as aid is cut, it would be a catastrophe for the entire population. Lacking supplies and medical staff, Yemen will likely see people dying at a quicker rate than equipped countries, such as the U.S and Italy who are struggling to keep the curve flattened themselves. 

A spokesperson for USAID has said, “This decision is a last resort. The United States, other donors and international aid organizations have been advocating with the Houthis for years to allow aid groups to operate independently, but we have now reached a point where continued obstruction has made it impossible to ensure aid is reaching those who need it most.” Trump is cutting 70 million in humanitarian aid to the region, leaving about 12 million for lifesaving emergencies. 

According to slate news, Yemen officials have said they have “700 ICU beds and 500 ventilators to equip a country with a population of about 30 million.” Democrats have highly advised against this current measure until after the crisis, as Yemen is already having trouble delivering basic needs to its citizens. 80% of Yemenis depend on international assistance. An outbreak, which the WHO has warned about in the Middle East, will be fatal and deadly to the Yemen population without essential aid to boost healthcare systems. 

According to Al-Monitor, Yemen only has 500 tests. More than half the population is malnourished and most hospitals are not accessible due to bombings and the Saudi-blockade. COVID-19 has been a disaster situation in some of the most prepared western countries. If it reaches a country such as Yemen, it will escalate to a point where millions will die.

Democrats are pushing for a war powers lawsuit against Trump to end the long supported Saudi led coalition under the Trump regime in Yemen. This would make support of this war unconstitutional and US participation would eventually end. The UN recently issued a ceasefire in Yemen, demanding that the war be put on halt during the current crisis, but Houthini rebels seem unfazed. However, as the situation progresses so may international peace. The corona virus has put many disputes at a halt to combat the disease, and it may change the way the world looks at humanitarian crises forever.

The Houthinis, Iranian lead rebels, have been attempting to overthrow the Saudi-lead government that the U.S has backed. Many anti-war efforts have worked towards bringing this to an end and opening up communication between the two rivals to create negotiations between both sides to end the conflict. However, Trump has taken a very hands-off approach, which has only evolved the escalation of the war as Iranians are getting stronger in the region. Now, they have successfully grown strong enough to block aid. The U.S diplomats need to cease fighting and start making treaties using soft power approaches, as cuts to aid will only merely halt some attacks during this time but could end up killing a huge portion of the population. Iranian forces will persist and potentially create new terrorist threats emerging in the region. Diplomacy is needed now more than ever. Before this proves to be a full-blown crisis once corona virus hits the region. Negotiating now will bring a long-awaited end to the war, which is something that many officials warned should have been dealt with months ago.

In maintaining international peace with many unstable countries, it is important to create an environment that brings both sides together without neglecting huge populations of people. Thirty million Yemini’s are depending on assistance and healthcare if an outbreak happens. Unless diplomacy is created before an outbreak ravages the population, then we will be unable to stop rebel forces from blockading basic health care facilities and taking supplies. 

Peace is the most important aspect of this situation, yet the virus seems to be escalating tension. While the US is seeing an overload in its own healthcare system, this should be a wakeup call for governments to push for peace in the future, as we have seen the devastating impacts worldwide from avoiding long-term issues that could have been solved years ago through diplomacy.

It is clear now international governments should stop holding off diplomacy and find peaceful solutions to the crisis in Yemen. Best before it is too late to stop an outbreak.

Paulina Colwell