Learn more about the current health crisis in Yemen and how you can help.
While Americans continue to do the least to mitigate the number of deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, Yemen remains in its fifth year in civil war – facing what is now the largest humanitarian crisis in the world with over 20 million people facing food insecurity and 10 million people at risk of famine.
For some background, Yemen’s civil war has its roots in the 2003 American invasion of Iraq when the Bush administration successfully toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein in counterterrorism efforts, causing the entire region to destabilize. For many Arabs, the invasion of Iraq was “deeply radicaliz[ing]” and in Yemen, served as a significant “turning point” for the minority Houthi movement. The Houthis were a historically marginalized group of Zaydi Shiites – a minority branch of Shiites, with different beliefs from those in Iran and Iraq – and criticized President Saleh’s support of the invasion. After many years under President Saleh’s “corrupt and autocratic government” they joined in the 2011 Arab Spring protests in an attempt to bring some change to the country. A Saudi-led coalition instilled Saleh’s vice-president, Hadi, as the next president of Yemen in an effort to further Saudi interests in the region, yet Hadi was “deeply unpopular and seen as a Saudi stooge”. In 2014, former president Saleh (previously an enemy) began colluding with the Houthis against Hadi, and in 2015, the capital of Yemen, Sanaa, was taken over by Houthi rebels. With rumors of cooperation between Houthi forces and Iran, the Saudis began to worry about Iran’s increasing influence in the region – Iran being a dominating Shiite power – and they formed a coalition with the UAE and Hadi backed by the US, against Houthi forces.
Since the making of the Saudi coalition, massive destruction has occurred in Yemen as the Royal Saudi Air Force has dropped “tons of American and British munitions” using “American and British aircraft”. A Saudi air and naval blockade has left millions of Yemeni civilians at significant risk of starvation and disease, with a cholera outbreak now infecting nearly a million people in the midst of an ongoing war and coronavirus pandemic. Airstrikes have destroyed much of the country’s healthcare infrastructure, drinking water and medical supplies are widely inaccessible, and diphtheria has begun to spread along with many other contagious diseases. With the few hospitals that remain untouched by explosives, they are unable to provide care due to a lack of fuel for power generators as the Saudis block entry for fuel tankers. According to the latest WHO situation reports, there have been over 2000+ confirmed COVID cases, nearly 200,000 cholera cases, nearly 6,000 diphtheria cases, nearly 40,000 cases of Dengue Fever, about 2,500 cases of measles, 15 suspected Polio cases, and nearly 24,000 cases of malnutrition.
With over 12.2 million children in need of humanitarian assistance and over 20 million facing extreme food insecurity, the significant lack of funding for the UN’s response is very concerning, having less than half the financial aid needed. As this pandemic continues to seemingly “ravage” through our lives, remember how lucky we are to have hospitals that haven’t been turned into chunks of cement and dust. While the US continues to fund and support Saudi airstrikes, we must urge our leaders to restore Yemeni aid and end the airstrikes that are killing innocent civilians (call/email local senators and representatives about the issue). As Yemen rests on the brink of famine, we must close the wide gap in humanitarian aid funding before it is too late.
If you would like to donate, please donate directly to UNICEF or other organizations involved in the Yemen humanitarian response are: CARE, Save the Children and Islamic Relief USA (choose “Yemen Humanitarian Aid” under the Country/Regional section of the Donate Now page). If you cannot donate, you can still help big signing petitions and raising awareness. Here are links to a few petitions: https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/potus-end-us-support and https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/house-back-un-call-for.