24,000,000, that’s 80% of Yemen’s population in need of medical and humanitarian aid, right this minute; 10,00,000, that’s the number of civilians at risk of famine; 8,00,000 that’s the number of civilians infected with cholera outbreak; 1,00,000, that’s the number of fatalities that took place due to the ruthless air strikes; hope that’s enough to draw your ‘precious attention’ towards “the forgotten war” or as otherwise said “the biggest humanitarian crisis” this world has seen.
This is the story about Yemen and how a nation of 29 million people has become a living hell for civilians due to mindless and inhumane proxy wars and greed for power.
Let us take a walk back to 2010-11, the era of Arab Spring, a series of protests and armed rebellions, in major Arab nations that were held against unruly masters and their oppressive regimes, carried out by civilians and anti- government groups; what started in Tunisia, spread to other Arab nations, one of them being, Yemen, that saw a number of demonstrations and protests held by the civilians, opposition groups and the Houthis, against the 33 year rule of president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Rise of Houthis in Yemen
Hadi established the new government with 100% votes and full support but this new government struggled with corruption, food insecurity and unemployment, along with other political issues.
Here comes to light, The Houthi movement (known formally as Ansar Allah), which champions Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority and fought a series of rebellions against Saleh during the previous decade, that took advantage of the new president’s weakness by taking control of their northern of Saada province and neighbouring areas, with ever rising attacks on the public and religious places including mosques, playgrounds, schools, market places.
Cut to 2014, the Houthis and General People’s Congress led by Saleh, not to mention the former enemies and the ones previously side-lined by GCC , now joined forces and were gradually capturing the capital Sanaa and other parts of northern Yemen. Their next target, Hadi, therefore, in January 2015, the Houthis seized the presidential palace and the private residence of president Hadi, following which Hadi retreated to Aden in south of Yemen, where he still had what was left of political support but due to continued attacks, moved to Saudi Arabia from where he tried to control the political scenario in Yemen by announcing Aden, as the temporary capital and himself, still being the legitimate President, this had zero to no effect, on the motives of the Houthis who dissolved the parliament and created a Revolutionary Committee led by Mohammad Ali-Al Houthi, and now were on the way to capture major parts of the Yemen’s third city of Taiz and parts of Aden too.
Intervention by Saudi-led Coalition
Alarmed by the rise of the group, which they believed to be backed militarily by regional Shia power Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states including UAE, began an air campaign aimed at defeating the Houthis, containing Iranian influence in Yemen and restoring Mr Hadi’s government; their ground troops landed in the southern port city of Aden in August 2015 and helped drive the Houthis and their allies out of much of the south over the next few months by receiving logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France. A recent report shows, about 19,000 strikes were launched that targeted the Houthi camps but ended up taking lives and resources of millions of civilians. Whereas, The Houthis have not been dislodged from Sanaa and north-western Yemen. They have been able to maintain a siege of the third city of Taiz and to launch regular ballistic missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia. Following which, Saudi led coalition created land, air and water blockades to stop the aids to enter Yemen which increased the prices of food and petrol pushing more people into food insecurity and ailment.
The Cholera Outbreak and Fall of Alliance
It distorted what was left of the lives of the poor, about 8,00,000, cases were registered, leaving thousands dead; it brings our focus on the ecological disadvantage faced by Yemen, as it is largely dependent on ground water and its level has dropped drastically from 30 m to 1200 m from 1970 to 2012 and is ever declining, leading to diseases like cholera and bloodshed due to water conflicts, not to mention deaths due to dehydration. Another unfortunate turn of events was the collapse of the alliance between the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh in November 2017 following deadly clashes over control of Sanaa’s biggest mosque and Houthi fighters launched an operation to take full control of the capital, while Saleh was assassinated.
The Rivalry Diversified
In August2019, fighting erupted in the south between Saudi-backed government forces and an ostensibly allied southern separatist movement supported by the UAE, the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and in April 2020, the STC declared self-rule in Aden, breaking a peace deal signed with the internationally recognised government, saying it would govern the port city and southern provinces.
This year, Saudi Arabia announced a unilateral ceasefire due to coronavirus pandemic but the Houthis rejected it, demanding the lifting of air and sea blockades in Sanaa and Hudaydah, no resolutions till date.
The aftermath of the catastrophe
The UN has verified the death of at least 7,700 civilians by March 2020, with most caused by Saudi-led coalition air strikes. More than 23,000 fatalities were reported in 2019, making it the second most lethal year of the war so far.
Thousands more civilians have died from preventable causes, including malnutrition, disease and poor health. An estimated 2 million children are acutely malnourished, including almost 360,000 children under the age of five years who are struggling to survive. With only half of the country’s 3,500 medical facilities fully functioning, almost 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare. And almost 18 million do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation.
#Yemen‘s war forced Ahmed to flee his home in 2018. He now lives in fear of a new threat: #COVID19.— WFP Yemen (@WFPYemen) July 20, 2020
Yemen is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Now #Coronavirus threatens to make it worse. #WFPvoices #YemenCrisis pic.twitter.com/M9Br421l7Y
The United Nations has warned that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could “exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years’
Yemen is facing an emergency within an emergency and is in need of immediate humanitarian aid. Here, local groups are fighting on ground and rivals who are backing opposite sides in foreign war are bombing from above, while the Yemenis are stuck in the middle, struggling to breathe!