A Brief Overview of the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis-Warning Sensitive Content

A few weeks ago I came across a post on Instagram that highlighted the situation in Yemen and I was utterly shocked.

24.1 million people are in need of humanitarian help

3.65 million people are displaced

20.1 million people are food insecure

Organizations such as the UN and World Food Program have raised billions of dollars to deliver humanitarian aid for Yemen, however, it is not nearly enough. On top of destruction caused by the war, poorly maintained sewer systems and poor sanitation have spread diseases such as cholera and dengue throughout the country. With an already existing health crisis and an ongoing war, the country is not at all prepared to fight COVID-19.

Yemen’s War-History

The current war in Yemen started with previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. During his rule, the country experienced massive unemployment and poverty. This led the Yememis to rise up against Saleh and eventually, with the help of Saudi Arabia and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), Saleh was overthrown.

Then, the vice-president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi stepped up as Yemen’s president. During the transition from Saleh to Hadi, however, the situation became worse. There was more unemployment, food insecurity and suicide bombings as well as a separatist movement. In 2014, some of Yemen’s factions began to lose patience. One of which are the Houthis, a Shia rebel group. The Shia group and people still loyal to Saleh joined forces to lead a rebellion against Hadi’s government. In 2014, they took over Yemen’s capital of Sana’a. In 2017, Houthis and Saleh forces ended their alliance.

This led Hadi to go to Saudi Arabia and together, they formed a coalition. The Saudi-led intervention started in 2015 and went on to drop over 19 000 attacks over the course of four years. The most vulnerable people in the situation are the civilians. Thousands of Yemenis were killed and dozens of schools and hospitals were bombed. These attacks were just the beginning to civilian suffering. A land, sea and air barrier were made around Yemen, preventing aid from getting inside the country. This barrier limited food supply, health aid and left thousands of Yemenis’ home destroyed. The UN (United Nations) state that out of a population of 29 million people, 24 million need humanitarian aid (>80% of the population).

Main sources:

The War is Yemen Explained in 3 Minutes

Why is Yemen at War

Malnutrition

Over 20 million Yemenis, approximately 70% of Yemen’s population are food insecure. 3.3 million are babies and lactating women. Many children develop severe acute malnutrition when they are a couple of months old because their mothers are so malnourished they cannot produce milk. As a result of malnutrition, these babies suffer from the result of underdevelopment permanently. According to UNICEF, malnutrition has caused permanent physical and mental damage to 45% of Yemen’s children under five and 85 000 children in Yemen have already died from malnutrition.

There are a few reasons why Yemenis are starving. 1) The economic crisis has drastically increased food prices and unemployment rates. Buying food becomes much more difficult for Yemenis. 2)The barrier made around Yemen and airstrikes at the ports has drastically slowed the process at which products are imported into the country. 90% of food in Yemen is imported but due to the barrier and bombings at the port, less food reaches the Yemeni markets. As a result, not only is there not enough food but the food is too expensive for most people to afford. In some cases, food has reached the port but cannot reach the Yemeni market due to bombings. Cranes used to lift cargo from cargo ships are left destroyed and unable to unload the food.

Cholera

Yemen is currently experiencing the worst cholera outbreak ever recorded. The fact that the worst cholera outbreak is occurring in 2020 is CRAZY because it is highly treatable and preventable in most parts of the world. For example, in Canada, fewer than 40 cases of cholera were reported from 2007 to 2016. In addition, cases can be easily treated with rehydration and electrolytes.

Since the outbreak began, WHO (World Health Organisation) has reported over 1.2 million cholera cases in Yemen. Food insecurity and malnutrition lowers the resistance of fighting off the disease. To make matters worse:

  • 58% of all cholera cases are seen in children, the demographic most affected by malnutrition.
  • The cost of food, water, fuel and medication has risen dramatically, lowering Yemen’s resistance against cholera.
  • Seaports are bombed so humanitarian aid is not able to enter the country.
  • Hospitals and medical facilities have been bombed so less treatment centres are available.

Experts believe that if humanitarian aid was able to reach Yemen sooner, such a disastrous outbreak would not have occurred.

Covid-19

When COVID-19 hit, no country was prepared for the catastrophe it would cause but Yemen, in particular, is less resilient against COVID-19. Experts believe there is already 1 million cases in Yemen, however, due to the lack of testing only over a thousand cases are documented.

Yemen is more vulnerable than other countries to COVID-19 for a few reasons:

  1. The country is still at war, negatively affecting the health care system and access to clean water or sanitation. Which are crucial elements in preventing controlling COVID-19. In addition to this, supplies are blocked by the air, land and sea barrier surrounding Yemen.
  2. The healthcare system is already strained. Yemen’s healthcare systems are already dealing with millions of cases of malnutrition, cholera, dengue fever and malaria. The war has also destroyed many healthcare facilities. COVID-19 is going to further strain the healthcare system.
  3. Lack of protection for healthcare workers. Since ports are blocked, it is difficult for healthcare workers to receive proper PPE (personal protective equipment). Eventually, this can result in a lack of healthcare workers which means less people with the disease can be cared for.
  4. Economic crisis. Yemenis may still choose to go to work because they have no choice. As soon as one person in a family catches COVID-19, there is a very high chance that the rest of the family will also contract the disease.
Healthcare workers take temperatures at the Yemen borders.

Possible solution

The root of the problem is political so making direct impact by people other than politicians themselves will be difficult. Despite most of us not being politicians, we can still make substantial impact by donating and raising awareness.

Donate. Organisations such as the United Nations, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Program, Save The Children and Oxfam are contributing essential items and services. Such items and services include food packages, severe acute malnutrition screening, polio vaccinations and healthcare services.

Raise awareness. As COVID-19 makes headlines every day, the world quickly forgets about the humanitarian crisis happening in Yemen. Posting on social media is a great way to get the word across very quickly. Some handles you can follow are: UN, UNICEF, World Food Program. These are great sources if you want to stay updated with information on this matter.

TL:DR

  • 80% of Yemen’s population is in need of humanitarian help.
  • The two sides of the war are the Houthis and Hadi’s government backed by Saudi Arabia.
  • Over 20 million Yemenis suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Most of these Yemenis are children. Food insecurity is caused by the economic crisis and the barrier surrounding Yemen.
  • Yemen is currently suffering from the worst cholera outbreak over recorded due to lack of sanitation. Yemenis are less resistant against this disease as their immune systems are weakened by malnutrition.
  • Yemen is very vulnerable to COVID-19 because they are still at war, their healthcare system is strained, Yemen’s ports are blocked, there is a lack of PPE and they are suffering an economic crisis.
  • You can support this cause by donating and spreading the word.

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Rosa Li

Passionate about solving problems. Currently diving into space tech