Yemen: the atrocities of a conflict that the world is determined to ignore
Photo credits: Oxfam
A child is dying every 10 minutes, millions of people are displaced and many more are at imminent risk of famine and a health infrastructure that is mostly deteriorated. These are some of the catastrophic outcomes of the ongoing conflict in Yemen.
If the world waits for famine to be declared, it might be too late. This was the message from the humanitarian organisations operating in Yemen. Described, by the United Nations (UN), as the worst humanitarian situation on the globe, the two-year conflict has killed more than 7,600 people, 4,600 of whom are civilians. Oxfam warned that an unprecedented number of people, 18.8 million, 70 percent of the population, in need of humanitarian assistance making it the greatest in any country in the world.
The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) reported that 17 million people, 60% of the total Yemeni population, are food insecure with 10.2 million in Phase 3 ‘crisis’ and 6.8 million people having already reached IPC Phase 4 ‘emergency’. These two categories have increased by 20% compared to the results of June last year. Oxfam described it as a country being "pushed to the brink of starvation" with a population "at a breaking point" and an overall deteriorating food security and severe malnutrition. "If the parties to the conflict – and those fuelling it with arm sales – continue to ignore Yemen’s food crisis, they will be responsible for a famine. The people of Yemen are being starved to death and may not survive the situation much longer," said Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, Oxfam's Country Director in Yemen. Over 3 million people were forced out of their homes and many of them have fled the brutal conflict to find themselves living in abject poverty and harsh health conditions, according to reports by the United Nations' Organisation. The health infrastructure in Yemen was not without its challenges even before the conflict, but the ongoing violence had led to further deterioration. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), only 45% of health facilities are fully functional and accessible, 38% are partially functional and 17% are non-functional. The infrastructure was regularly targeted by the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi-led authority is delaying the delivery of life-saving relief and detaining aid workers, reports Oxfam. Fighting on Yemen’s west coast escalated last month, especially around Al-Hudaydah and Mocha ports. This is likely to cut off vital supplies to millions of people and even though the blockade on food coming into the country has been partially lifted, new restrictions on shipping and the destruction of port facilities are making it even more difficult to get the much-needed supplies. Both Oxfam and the United Nations have called for an immediate action in Yemen. Oxfam has called upon the UN Secretary General to pressure all parties to the conflict to resume peace talks and reach a negotiated peace agreement and for the respect of International Humanitarian Law and for land, sea and air routes to Yemen to remain open. The UN on the other hand has urged the international community to pledge a much needed 2.1 billion dollars to help prevent famine in Yemen. A stark reminder of a conflict that started back in March 2011 in Syria with the international community refusing to intervene or take any decisive action until December 2014 when the US and their allies decided to intervene to fight ISIS but by then it was already too late.