Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis Continues To Deteriorate

Yemen is facing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. In fact, the war-torn country has been undergoing this crisis since 2014.  The United Nations’ agencies claim that more than 80 per cent of the population require some form of assistance. Also, 20 million Yemeni civilians are facing food insecurity and 14 million require urgent humanitarian intervention. The situation is predicted to deteriorate even further next year.

A joint statement published on Thursday, 3rd December, by the World Food Programme (WFP), UNICEF, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) highlighted the situation’s urgency. It indicated that more than half of Yemen’s population risks slipping into “worsening levels of hunger” by mid-2021. Over the last few months, the UN agencies have struggled to improve living standards there due to a lack of funding. The COVID-19 pandemic is also hindering the UN agencies’ efforts, as vital water and sanitation supplies are becoming even more scarce.

David Beasley, the WFP’s Executive Director, is urging immediate action. He stressed last week that “These alarming numbers must be a wake-up call to the world. Yemen is on the brink of famine and we must not turn our backs on the millions of families who are now in desperate need.” The prospects of resolving this crisis are becoming more distant every month.

The WFP, UNICEF, and FAO warned in a statement last week that the number of Yemenis currently suffering famine-like conditions could triple from 16,500 to 47,000 between January and June 2021. The lack of UN funding has certainly exacerbated the situation. Last month, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that the $3.4 million UN humanitarian appeal for 2020 for Yemen had received only $1.5 billion.

Yemen’s dire social and economic conditions are the cause of a complicated political conflict. Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have led a coalition of states in Yemen against the Iran-backed Houthi forces. The Houthi forces currently control an area that is home to 70 per cent of Yemen’s population, according to Human Rights Watch. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and The UAE have contributed significant amounts of capital to military operations in Yemen.

Consequently, these nations’ financial support has prolonged the conflict. 130,000 Yemeni Civilians have been killed so far, according to a United Nations Development Program report. Furthermore, the Coalition and Houthi forces have been accused of numerous human rights violations. A 2019 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report indicated that Houthi rebels have recruited children, used banned antipersonnel landmines, and fired artillery indiscriminately into cities. The report also documented at least 90 unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. This included attacks that deliberately targeted civilians and civilian objects.

These regional actors’ intervention in the conflict is catastrophic. They are prolonging the conflict and increasing the likelihood of casualties. Additionally, they are impeding the aid workers’ efforts and abilities to reach vulnerable communities. For instance, the Saudi-led Coalition has stopped critical goods from entering Houthi-controlled seaports, according to the 2019 HRW report. As a result, Yemeni civilians in those areas are struggling to gain access to food.

Thus, Yemen’s near future is not looking promising. Regional actors continue to neglect the welfare and safety of Yemeni civilians. As long as their financial support is directed towards military operations, the situation in Yemen will continue to deteriorate. If Saudi Arabia, The UAE, and Iran are serious about resolving this crisis, it is crucial that they direct their efforts towards humanitarian aid.

Charles Alcasar Guedouard