The Deepening Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

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For the last couple of months, Yemen has been reeling under air strikes being carried by Saudi Arabia. The air strikes have already resulted in a few thousand civilian deaths and a major humanitarian crisis in the country. Saudi Arabia has been desperately trying to reinstate its ally, the former President of Yemen, Mansour al Hadi, now exiled in Riyadh by fighting Ansarullah group, whose fighters are drawn mostly from Houthi tribe and who are now allied to his predecessor and rival, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Not content with the air strikes and perhaps realising that they have not been able to achieve the desired result of defeating the Houthis, Saudi Arabia has now launched a naval blockade, plunging the country into a massive humanitarian crisis.

Reports from the country suggest that 20 million people, which is about 80% of the total population, is in dire need of water, food and medical aid. The naval blockade has been enforced by the Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia with backing from the US and Britain. A few aid ships are being allowed, but most of the commercial ships are not being allowed inside Yemen. This major humanitarian crisis not only raises questions about the role of Saudi Arabia but its western backers like the US and UK as well. US is providing logistical and intelligence support through the Saudi Army. UN sources ay only 15% of the pre crisis volume of imports is getting through. Yemen is dependent on imports for 90% of its food requirements. The blockade means that it almost impossible to bring any essential supplies into the country. The situation is now worsening, with hospitals shutting down for lack of diesel and essential medicine. Many people are dying of simple diseases for lack of medical care.

The economy of Yemen was already severely hit by the now six month old civil war. The air strikes and naval blockade have further choked the fragile economy. Over 2000 civilians are reported dead so far in the conflict. UN reports suggest that more than a million have been forced out of their homes. The humanitarian crisis perpetuated by the blockade is affecting the majority of population as tankers carrying petrol and diesel have also been stopped. People are not getting regular gas supplies, resulting in long queues outside gas stations. The electricity supply has been hit in a major way which is forcing hospitals to shut their operations. Schools have also been forced to shut. Millions of people have also been denied access to clean drinking water due to the ongoing conflict and the subsequent air strikes and naval blockade.  

According to Save the Children, hospitals in at least 18 of the country’s 22 governorates have been closed or severely affected by the fighting or the lack of fuel. Due to a lack of clean water and sanitation, the spread of disease like cholera is on the rise. In Aden, a dengue fever outbreak has also been reported. As the country plunges into a new crisis with every passing day and as common people in Yemen find it extremely difficult to survive, the world leaders have adopted a convenient and deafening silence. 

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