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Source: CTV News

Yemen: The World's Largest Humanitarian Crisis

Ryan Chiu
Grade 10
Yemen is facing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. For years, the country has been facing a civil war, cholera pandemic, mass hunger and malnutrition, and displacement. In addition to these issues, they now fight COVID-19 and potential famine. 80% of Yemenis (24 million people) are in immediate need of humanitarian assistance, with over 12 million of those people being children. Their civil war has been restricting their access to aid, clean water, and other basic human needs to survive their emergencies.

The civil war has been ongoing since 2015, but the conflict’s roots date back years. Following an Arab Spring rising in 2011, President Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to hand over power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. This handover did not go smoothly. Under Hadi’s presidency, the country struggled with food security, unemployment, and a separatist movement. The Houthi rebels, who fought a number of battles against Saleh’s government, took advantage of the transition to take over land throughout Yemen. By early 2015, the rebel group had taken over Yemen’s capital city, Sanaa, forcing Hadi to flee. Hadi is now basing his rule in Saudi Arabia while his government is working in Aden, a port city in Southern Yemen. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, with the assistance of eight other Arab states, the United States, United Kingdom, and France, continue to fight alongside Yemeni forces out of suspicion that Iran and terrorist groups may be backing the Houthi movement.

Yemen’s healthcare systems and infrastructure have taken a huge hit from over five years of civil war. In the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic and a cholera epidemic, only half of the nation’s hospitals are functioning. In the few functioning hospitals, staff are short on masks, gloves, and other supplies necessary to simply maintain safe practice, let alone the gear to fight COVID-19. Moreover, there are not enough testing kits available to determine the number of cases, so while official statistics may be low, it is not an accurate representation of how widespread the pandemic is in the country. The economic impact of COVID-19 around the world has gravely lessened aid funding. A United Nations donor’s conference in June fell $1 billion short of its $2.41 billion goal due to donor countries’ economic issues. Additionally, one in ten Yemenis depend on financial support from relatives or friends who live in other countries that they have not been able to receive. With the war driving over 100,000 Yemenis out of their homes since the start of 2020 and millions more throughout the war. Those relocated often move to overcrowded areas where distancing and sanitation are not possible, advancing the spread of diseases like COVID-19 and cholera, claiming the lives of even more children.

Children have been impacted the most in this conflict. Nearly every single child in Yemen is at risk of health complications or malnutrition, and 10.2 million children do not have access to basic healthcare. Because of this, 30,000 children in Yemen die every year, and the UN estimates that a child dies a predictable death (from cholera, measles, diarrhea, etc.) every ten minutes. The war effort has used child soldiers, some under 15, on both sides, with 64% of them recruited by Houthis. In 2018, the conflict claimed the lives of 1185 children.

With the world starting to wake up and recognize this crisis, many are trying to educate themselves on ways they can help. The majority of these methods are by donating to organizations such as the United Nations or Save the Children who can provide aid directly to Yemenis. Even if you are unable to donate directly, there are many other great ways to get involved. The Freerice app is a quiz game app by the World Food Programme that donates ad revenue to children in need, represented in-game by grains of rice. Simply spreading awareness about the issue and encouraging others to donate is another way to help, as it can help bring matters like this to people who have the money or power to donate. No matter what method we use to help, there is one thing for sure: we must act fast, otherwise, Yemen could be wiped off of world maps.