By: Arshiya Arora
For a little more than five years, Yemen has been locked in a seemingly intractable civil war that has killed nearly 100,000 people and pushed millions to the brink of starvation. The conflict started when an uprising forced the country’s long-time authoritarian president to hand over the power to his deputy Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. President Hadi struggled to deal with various problems including militant attacks, corruption and food insecurity. This political transition did not bring any stability.
In 2014, Houthi Shia Muslim rebel movement took advantage of the new president's weakness and seized control of northern Saada province and its neighboring areas, marking it a distinguishable point in time when the conflict began. It escalated in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states - backed by the US, UK, and France - began air strikes against the Houthis, with the declared aim of restoring Hadi's government.
This has produced an unrelenting humanitarian crisis, with at least 8.4 million people at risk of starvation and 22.2 million people - 75% of the population - in need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN. Severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of almost 400,000 children under the age of five.
An outbreak of cholera began in Yemen in October 2016 and it continues to get worse every day. This is due to the lack of public health sectors and aid. Cholera is an infectious and often fatal bacterial disease of the small intestine, typically contracted from infected water supplies and causing severe vomiting and diarrhea.
Yemen is also sliding fast towards what could become one of the worst famines in living memory, the UN’s top emergency relief official has warned. Over 17 million of Yemen's population is at risk, with over 3.3 million children and pregnant and lactating women suffering from acute malnutrition.
The country has also been seen to be extremely vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak. The Yemeni healthcare system has been "all but decimated" by the war, with many healthcare facilities destroyed by airstrikes and shelling, and a lack of healthcare workers. There is an acute shortage of testing kits, masks, gloves and sanitizers.
Heavy rains and floods in Yemen since mid-April have and continue to affect over 150,000 people, said the UN.
The civil war has devastated the economy of Yemen, where even before the current conflict, years of mismanagement and depletion of oil and water resources had led to chronic poverty. As a result of the civil war, Yemen is suffering from inflation and the devaluation of the Yemeni rial, with their economy contracting by 50 percent!
The Saudi coalition also imposed a blockade on Yemen’s air, land and sea ports to prevent Houthis from importing weapons. This had a severe impact on Yemen which traditionally imports 90% of its food and is also restricting it from receiving necessary aid and supplies.
And this is not all. Along with the problems listed above, there are mass shortages of water and electricity, food prices rise and poverty rates remain high. Many doctors and health care workers at public hospitals have not been paid since 2016. Many of Yemen’s doctors have moved to private hospitals or have left the country, leaving a shortage of medical professionals.
This is one of the largest humanitarian crises ever seen!