By: Chandrea Baster
A dire situation has arisen in Yemen. The country has been mired in conflict since 2011; however, tensions escalated three years ago and have been rising ever since. Yemen is currently dealing with the single worst humanitarian crisis in the world as they battle food and water shortages, disease, and a lack of fuel, all of which are attributable to a Saudi Arabian blockade. Without the easing of the blockade that has recently been imposed on Yemen’s border, the Yemeni people are going to be left in abhorrent conditions. This easing must be done quickly and efficiently, or Yemen is slated to have approximately 3 million people at the brink of starvation and thousands of children on the brink of death due to malnutrition.
The current situation dates back to the civil war that began in Yemen in 2011, and it has become increasingly widespread throughout the last few years. After the Houthi rebel group took control of the government in Yemen, former president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi called for help from Saudi Arabia. The Houthi quickly garnered support from Iran, who stands adamantly against Saudi Arabia. The resulting proxy war, ongoing since 2015, has been ruthless.
Last month, Houthi rebels launched a missile at the Saudi capital of Riyadh in response to Saudi Arabian forces dropping thousands of bombs on Yemen. Since that event, the situation has only deteriorated. In response to the missile incident, Saudi Arabia has put in place an almost complete blockade of Yemen, successfully preventing it from receiving necessary supplies that many individuals depend on.
Yemen was already considered the poorest nation in the Arab world prior to the conflict; the present situation renders Yemen almost uninhabitable. In a country where 90% of goods are imported, Yemeni citizens are unquestionably dependent on foreign aid. The statistics are staggering. Nearly seven million people are reliant on food assistance (a number heightened by raging famine) and 2.5 million people have been left without access to clean drinking water. The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports that a child in Yemen dies every 10 seconds simply from malnourishment, and close to 80 percent of Yemen’s population does not have reliable access to food. Additionally, disease is running rampant. Without access to clean drinking water, 2,000 Yemenis have died from cholera while almost a million have contracted the waterborne disease. This marks the worst cholera outbreak in history. Diseases that should be easy to treat are becoming increasingly harder to deal with as basic medicines are simply unavailable.
Fortunately, Saudi Arabia slightly adjusted their blockade requirements last week after backlash from over 22 humanitarian groups and various international leaders, such as Theresa May, who stated that a change needed to occur quickly in order to avert “a humanitarian catastrophe.” Since then, multiple ports have been re-opened allowing a flow of food, water, workers, and vaccines to arrive in Yemen. However, even with the recent influx of supplies, many organizations are stating that the current number of cargo shipments is not nearly enough.
With a limited number of supplies currently making it into Yemen, it is of utmost importance that countries take the initiative to avert a large-scale humanitarian disaster by expressing their deep animosity towards the Saudi Arabian blockade. Unblocking the ports leading into Yemen is a priority and one that needs to be swiftly enacted in order to minimize further casualties and support the necessities of Yemeni citizens.