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Crisis In Yemen – Eva Gumbs – Medium

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Crisis blog by Eva Gumbs.

Above: the devastating impact on a war-torn country.

The on-going conflicts between various groups in Yemen has created a huge humanitarian crisis across the country; with adults and children dying every day and starvation becoming more and more apparent. Between the 9th and 10th March this year, 22 people were killed whilst atleast 30 were injured because of air strikes. This conflict, both past and present, refuses to ease, leaving civilians vulnerable, without food and the likelihood of being killed daily. Subjected to this way of living for years has lead to the people of Yemen being somewhat neglected at the hands of war. Why?

The roots of the conflict.

Conflict arose from the Arab Spring of 2011 leading to President, Ali Abdullah Saleh eventually passing over his power to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2012 whom found difficulties in handling issues such as militant attacks and famine across the country. In 2011, protests began across the Arab world, firstly involving a Tunisian man setting himself on fire due to treatment of police. The Arab Spring movement extended to the likes of Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen along with others.

With the difficulties mounting up against the current president, the people of Yemen began to get frustrated and dissatisfied by his ruling to which he eventually fled the country in 2015. This came shortly after the Houthi Shia Muslim Rebel group took over the Northern Saada Province and then the Capital. Consequently, Saudi Arabia become involved; creating a coalition. The countries consisted of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Quatar, Egypt, Jordan, Morrocco, Senegal and Sudan. The United States of America and the United Kingdom supported this coalition. Although Hadi attempted to regain control, Salah, the former president, had reconnected with old enemies, thus causing more conflicts and divisions within the political and social system.

The complexity of such conflict has been documented over the past years; highlighting the vast number of groups at war with each other making it harder to contain or eliminate the problems increasing the problems for civilians.

Here, Iona Craig, a spokesperson for Yemen recognises the various conflicts going on within the same country and its borders.

“The parties to Yemen’s messy civil war each have their own agenda, making the conflict hard to resolve. — Angus Mcdowall and Aziz El Yaakoubi, writers for Reuters also highlight the multiple problems that Yemen face. Additionally, The European Council on Foreign relations acknowledge that the terror in Yemen is not a matter of a single conflict but a combination of regional, local and international power struggles.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Narrowing in on one of the on-going conflicts, is the presence of Al Qaeda within Yemen. This group consists of Jihadi fighters who have made it back to Yemen from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq with their ideologies and violence in tow-taking advantage of Yemen’s mountains as fighting grounds and hide outs.

Kristina Wong: Is Yemen a safe haven for terrorists?

To Answer; yes. According to Bruce Riedel, Yemen is and has always appealed to members of Al Qaeda and happens to be home to the relatives of Osama Bin Laden. The reason for its appeal is the lack of governed space, meaning terrorist groups are not monitored nor stopped in this part of the country. Because of these spaces, Al Qaeda has “always thrived”. It is for this reason, alongside many others, that the Yemeni government does not have the power to defeat Al Qaeda. The lack of governance, civil war and weakened presidency means that Al Qaeda have taken advantage thus increasing their power, according to Cheyenne l’Auclair (Hall). Therefore, the continuous conflict in Yemen simply means Al Qaeda will continue their reign of terror and adds devastation to civilians caught in the crossfire.

Above: The white area highlighting the presence of Al Qaeda in Yemen.

The Houthi Movement.

Since the emergence of the coalition, Yemen face the worst humanitarian crisis across the globe and the Houthi movement within this country show no signs of giving up the violence they have spread. In addition, over 56000 people have been killed and up to half of the population facing starvation and famine. The Houthi Movement originated in the 1990s, led by Hussein Badreddin A-Houthi. He was later killed and so the group was taken over by his brother. Interestingly, from around the 9th century, Northern Yemen was ruled by religious leaders and politicians though this religion, Zaydi, was overthrown in 1962 by Yemeni soldiers as they seemed to be a threat to the society. Fast forward almost three decades on, 1990 saw the Northern and Southern parts of Yemen unite becoming the Republic of Yemen and although a minority, Zaydis members remained. Since 2004, the Houthi rebels have been opposed to the Government of Yemen due to religious and political differences; reigning terror from the mountains and eventually becoming the most dominant and powerful military body within the country.

Supporters of the Houthi’s above.

Speaking on when the Houthi movement became so against the state, The Independent stated that between the years of 2004 and 2010, there had been many battles amongst the government and the Houthi forces. 2011, as discussed, saw the uprisings of the Arab Spring and the Houthi’s found themselves once again opposed to the workings of former president, Saleh. The fighting at this point seems inevitable and the United Nations have placed blame on both the coalition and the Houthi Movement for creating what is now one of the biggest and most devastating humanitarian crisis known to man.

In more recent times, Priyanka Gupta reported on the continuing conflict- The Houthi fighters killing Saudi Soldiers just over a month ago (February, 2019). With this in mind, it can only allow one to wonder about the on-going battle civilians face every day and the devastating impact of these multiple conflicts.

The crisis.

Years of conflict now sees Yemen as a country in need, with the death toll, according to the Telegraph, 2018, six times higher than what is actually predicted with over 60,000 people killed just in the last two years of the raging war. This astonishing figure sheds light on what is to come if the conflict fails to be resolved or contained. This places emphasis on the crisis and the desperate need for aid. This crisis, described as a ‘catastrophe’ by many, means the people of the country face extreme starvation and poverty. Despite the numerous wars around them, and the deaths of the fighters, ‘the only losers are the people’– when describing the civilians. The motivations of rebel groups around them seem so worthless when considering the impact on the innocents and their suffering existence.

In accordance to the Guardian in 2018, the famine in Yemen has been stated as the worst recorded in human life-leading to massive numbers of deaths in both adults and children. Why are people starving? Speaking for the Guardian, Mark Lowcock explains how the fighting is preventing shipment arriving in the country meaning it cannot possibly reach those in need. Meanwhile, food prices in their own war-torn country have doubled and for many families, poverty means they cannot afford to eat or are too injured to do anything about this. Lowcock goes on to add how many families have been trapped and injured due to explosions throughout the country and so they remain hungry and too afraid to venture afar in search of food. It truly is shocking. Whilst hunger is killing millions, it would be wrong to dismiss the outbreak of cholera down to infectious diseases and lack of health care. Again, emphasis on the fear of families trying to search for help or being unable too.

What is being done to help?

Humanitarian aids and charities around the world have made desperate attempts in a bid to help famine in Yemen. Charities are reaching out through advertisements and pleas to help raise funds, enough to try and cut the death toll. Gift Aid for example, adds an extra 25 percent in donations.

Desperate pleas are made online to try and get the help needed.

The UNHCR is a charity committed to helping families who are struggling survive under the conditions in Yemen but they recognise the inability to be able to reach everyone as this is simply impossible. Other charities on hand include; save the children- they acknowledge the growing hunger and malnutrition making children vulnerable to illness and death. 15.9 Million people in Yemen wake up hungry every day and without the help of these charities, it could be much worse, if possible. The world Food Programme has stepped in offering support and aid to Yemen and countries in similar crisis. Whilst famine is on the minds of many charities, it is important to establish that hunger is at the roots of other evolving challenges. Weakened immune systems, unable to gain an education and lack of energy to help one another to name a few. The purpose of these charities is to come up with strategic plans and aid to help tackle the cause. The World Food Programme for example sets out to end hunger whilst improving nutrition and food security.

“Children are so malnourished, they don’t even have the energy to cry”.

Malnutrition is claiming the lives of many children.

The image above tries to put the severity of the crisis into context.

Is it enough?

Is enough being done or has the extent of violence overshadowed the civilians in need of help? Although there was a peace agreement in 2018, this did not end the violence nor come close to resolving the famine meaning more measures need to be taken on a dying country. Martin Griffiths of the United Nations exclaimed that there is a “political will” to implement a ceasefire. Although some may find this hopeful in the fact people are looking out for Yemen, its hard to comprehend the damage that cannot be undone. Alongside the mass number of charities aiming to help Yemen, help is still at a minimum. According to a source in 2017, the aid provided was not reaching the right people- contradicting the purpose. So what more can be done? During a conference, there has been calls to ensure more protection surrounding Hudaydah; the main entry point for incoming aid and support.

Hudaydah port; needs more protection.

The scale of the crisis.

Humanitarians globally recognise the fact that money alone will not solve the crisis in Yemen. Last year, peace talks were delayed thus causing more room for concern. Speaking to the Red Cross, Fayed Ali Mohammed said he sleeps next to a hospital in the street because travelling to and from there every proves to be more dangerous. This interview has illustrated the growing need for aid and not just food but health care and safety of housing. On a political level, the Red cross wants parties across the country to respect basic laws and be humane so that much of the suffering could be preventable. Robert Mardini added; if health resources were no longer attacked, it could reduce the needs.

The implications for Yemen.

Image above: 2017; demonstrating the backing of air strikes and military action.

Of course, there is always speculation on the handling of rebels within a state and its inevitable impact on the citizens and the opportunity for retaliation causing more pressure. By 2018, it was reported that the Houthi’s had launched 100 missiles to attack the oppositions demonstrating the extent to which they will go to in the name of their beliefs. Because of such, it is impossible to predict when the fighting will come to a standstill and it is unpredictable to suggest that all the right civilians are getting the aid they need and deserve, although added security around the port will see to this being more likely. To reiterate the significance of famine, hunger not only means just that but a lack of energy, deterioration of health and weakened immune systems to fight of infections caused by the conflicts. Issues that seem solo, are deep rooted and complex and the war in Yemen is to be held responsible. It is hard to rely on the likes of Mardini’s advice above to hope for improvements and therefore the future for Yemen looks uncertain, more insecurity comes from the constant promise of ceasefires in which never go ahead. An operations manager at MSF- “It is impossible for humanitarian organisations working in Yemen to have an overall view of malnutrition across the country”. This puts into perspective the scale of the problem and just how hard it is to monitor- intensifying the crisis.

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Thanks !

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