Yemen Became the World’s Worst Humanitarian Crisis
Ewelina U. Ochab
In early April 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres reported that the Yemen crisis had become the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Approximately three quarters [equivalent to over 22 million] of Yemen's population were in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Of this 22 million, 11.3 million are children. Nearly every child in Yemen is affected by the crisis.
At the 2018 High-Level Pledging Event in Geneva for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, which was convened by the UN and the governments of Sweden and Switzerland, Guterres outlined the needs of the Yemeni people. In accordance with the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen, close to $3 billion is required to help more than 13 million people across the country.
Guterres identified that about 18 million people in Yemen are food insecure, with the number having increased by a million since the conference in 2017. This number includes 8.4 million people who ‘do not know how they will obtain their next meal.'
Not only is food an issue, millions of people in Yemen do not even have access to safe drinking water. Last year alone, this resulted in over a million cases of diarrhea and cholera. In December 2017, the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed that over a million cases of cholera had been reported since spring 2017 making this the worst cholera outbreak in two decades. Children under the age of 5 accounted for a quarter of all reported cholera cases. The World Health Organization confirmed over 2,200 cholera-related deaths in statistics gathered to December 2017. The risk of another cholera epidemic remains high.
In all walks of life in Yemen, even treatable illnesses become a ‘death sentence.' According to Guterres, one child under the age of five dies of preventable causes every ten minutes. In the time it takes to read this article, a Yemeni child has died from an illness that would not result in fatalities in other countries. Children are the main victims of the Yemeni conflict and the humanitarian crisis. UNICEF reported that over 5,000 children were killed or injured, an average of five children every day since the escalation of hostilities in March 2015. Over 1.8 million children are acutely malnourished. 400,000 of them are fighting for their lives, according to January 2018 reporting of UNICEF. As confirmed by Guterres, ‘nearly half of all children aged between six months and 5 years old are chronically malnourished and suffer from stunting, which causes development delays and reduced ability to learn throughout their entire lives.' The use of child soldiers is widespread. Many children are forced, by the dire situation, to work to support their families. Young girls are subjected to forced marriage. The most recent assessment suggests that over two-thirds of girls under the age of 18 are married, with a large percentage of them being under the age of 15. Over two million children do not attend school. As Edward Santiago from Save the Children concluded in early 2016 ‘an entire generation of children - the future of Yemen - is being abandoned to their fate.' Two years after that statement, the situation of children in Yemen has only deteriorated to the point that their future seems bleak.
While the conference focused predominately on the spiraling humanitarian crisis in Yemen, it cannot be forgotten that the conflict remains ongoing. Until it is concluded, there will be no sustainable solution to this humanitarian crisis, driven by conflict.
Civilians continue to be the indiscriminate victims of the ongoing conflict. They are subjected to ‘indiscriminate attacks, bombing, snipers, unexploded ordnance, cross-fire, kidnapping, rape and arbitrary detention.' Women and girls face sexual and gender-based violence.
While the ongoing conflict was not discussed at the 2018 High-Level Pledging Event in Geneva for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, it did advocate for an ‘urgent cessation of hostilities and a political solution for Yemen'. Two of the most generous donors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, pledged $1 billion combined. This is a great support from the region. However, it cannot be forgotten that both countries continue to play a part in the conflict. Guterres reportedly suggested that the military and humanitarian action should be kept separate.
Should it? Perhaps not in light of the evidence that, only a few days ago, a Saudi-led air strike killed several civilians, including children. Few could also forget that in late 2017, Saudi Arabia failed to fulfil its promise to reopen humanitarian aid corridors. Is it still charity then?
Source: Forbes, Edited by website team