21.07.2022 Author: Viktor Mikhin

Yemen is in the Grip of a Severe Humanitarian Crisis

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Several months of truce in Yemen have significantly reduced the number of civilian casualties. Yet, people are still dying from mines, but this figure has decreased by two-thirds compared to previous months.

Since 2015, Yemen has been divided between government forces backed by a Saudi-led military coalition and the Houthi rebel group, also known as “Ansar Allah,” which holds much of the north, including the capital Sana’a. Due to the protracted military conflict and the deepening economic crisis, millions of Yemenis have found themselves in a very difficult situation, just on the verge of poverty and hunger. At the same time, access to civilians in need of assistance has been extremely limited due to military actions imposed on the republic by the so-called Arab coalition led by the Saudis and actively supported by the United States.

UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Joyce Msuya warned members of the Security Council that the humanitarian situation in Yemen is “on the verge of serious deterioration” and residents of portions of the country face a full-blown famine in the coming weeks. She called on the international community to urgently take measures to avoid the most tragic scenario. According to the UN representative, the war in Ukraine, unleashed by the West against Russia, has significantly exacerbated Yemen’s problems because 90% of food in this country is imported from abroad. Last year, Ukraine and Russia provided half of all wheat supplies to Yemen, but ongoing negotiations on the supply of Ukrainian wheat to the Yemenis are brazenly being blocked by Washington. As for Moscow, it fulfills its obligations and continues to uninterruptedly supply Russian food to this Arab nation strictly and to the letter.

“The extremely difficult socio-economic situation in Yemen remains a subject of particular concern,” said First Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia Dmitry Polyansky, speaking at a meeting of the UN Security Council. “The degrading situation in the country can be described as a major humanitarian catastrophe. We reiterate the urgent need to remove all restrictions on the delivery of essential goods to Yemen. Food, medicine, and other items that Yemenis need must be available to them on a non-discriminatory basis.”  The political situation in Yemen, according to Russia, and all those closely following the situation in this Arab country, which has fallen under the joint military steamroller of the USA and Saudi Arabia, is at a stage of stagnation, one misstep could cancel all the progress made and again plunge the country into the chaos of war.

The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a warning about the devastating consequences of the lack of humanitarian funding for the war-torn Arab country, in particular for women and girls. Many human rights activists are concerned that the military conflict could undermine rescue efforts for the millions who survived the violence in Yemen and the 20-year US occupation in Afghanistan that ended last summer, but sparked another humanitarian crisis in western Asia. The Red Cross has expressed deep concern that, after eight years of armed conflict in Yemen, violence, along with economic hardship and deteriorating healthcare and health infrastructure, is increasingly preventing women and girls from accessing the essential healthcare they need.

The report says that as the lack of funding forces aid groups to cut humanitarian aid, the plight of Yemeni women and girls will only get worse. Per UNICEF, less than 50% of births are attended by qualified medical personnel in Yemen today. This has reportedly resulted in one mother and six newborns dying every two hours in Yemen because of complications during pregnancy and from causes that are reportedly almost completely preventable. And this is almost exclusively due to limited or no access to medical services.  Of the 4.2 million displaced people in Yemen since the start of the war in March 2015, 73% are estimated to be women and children. Displaced women and girls, according to the Red Cross, also suffer more from “economic and social vulnerability, resulting in limited access to basic services, including adequate healthcare for chronic conditions.”

“The pain is unbearable!” Mognia, a single mother suffering from terminal cancer and living in the Swayda camp for internally displaced persons in Marib, central Yemen, told a Red Cross spokesperson. “I was referred to a cancer center in Mukalla, hundreds of kilometers away. I cannot afford to go there for treatment sessions and endure long trips. Now I’m just sitting in my tent, waiting for death to put me out of my misery.”

Bashir Omar, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said the humanitarian situation in Yemen is “an unimaginable horror” with two-thirds of the population deprived of basic healthcare. Omar urged the international community not to leave the Yemeni people “face to face with their fate.”  The international humanitarian organization highlighted that more than 20.1 million people out of a total population of 30.5 million currently lack access to basic healthcare. Only 51% of medical facilities are still operating throughout the country. And this at a time when the violence and constant bombing by Saudi pilots makes it even more difficult for patients to receive life-saving medical care.

Despite a two-month truce concluded in May and extended by another two months until the end of August, Yemeni officials accuse the Saudi-led coalition of violating the ceasefire agreement. According to Yemeni media outlets, 17 people were killed or injured as a result of a recent shelling by Saudi Arabia in the governorate (province) of Saada. This is a new violation of the humanitarian and military truce. The news agency Saba, citing a source in the Yemeni security service, said that the victims were fired upon by Saudi border guards and that most of the wounded were in serious condition.

The war in Yemen has led to what the UN calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” and, according to data compiled by the international organization last year, has resulted in the deaths of nearly 400,000 Yemenis, more than two-thirds of whom are children under the age of five. Yet, experts and research teams believe that the actual death toll is much higher, as the UN admitted that it had stopped counting victims at one stage due to the risks to its staff involved in the process.

Humanitarian organizations are additionally concerned about the tons of hazardous untreated medical waste near Yemen’s capital Sana’a that poses a threat to the environment and water supply. The al-Azraqain landfill receives 2,000 tons of waste daily, including hazardous untreated medical waste generated in the capital’s hospitals. As waste accumulates, toxic chemicals seep into the ground.  “We have no other solution than to bury medical waste with garbage. It is mixed with garbage and buried,” said Bahauddin al-Haj, data processing manager at the al-Azraqain landfill.

Before the war, despite the country being poor, the authorities were at least able to separate the most hazardous waste from ordinary garbage. Today, the state of the country’s services after eight years of constant and barbaric bombing by Saudi Arabia and carried out with the indirect support of the United States, has led to the damage and destruction of many organizations involved in the disposal of hazardous waste. Experts say that if groundwater near a site is thought to be hidden but contaminated, it could cause a variety of illnesses and diseases in humans, including cancer, birth defects, immunological disorders, and many other maladies. So, even if the war in Yemen ends sooner or later, its consequences could last for decades unless urgent international action is taken to save lives.

On the one hand, Yemeni rebel forces are fighting to keep their country safe, protected, and independent of the Saudi-led enemy coalition. On the other hand, these patriots are fighting on another no less important front – against the terrorists of “al-Qaeda” (a terrorist group banned in the Russian Federation).

By the way, the Saudis, with the help of American advisers, are well aware of the positions of the terrorists, but they never bombard them, preferring to destroy the civilian population. A completely logical question then arises – why isn’t the military of the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia fighting against terrorists? Is it because the terrorists on Yemeni territory are connected precisely with the Saudis and the USA? This isn’t surprising if one remembers that in the events of 9/11 in the USA, most of the terrorists were from Saudi Arabia.

The war, which began in early 2015, saw the Saudi-led coalition launch almost daily airstrikes in an attempt to restore a former government loyal to Riyadh and acting at its behest. And for this reason, Yemen, which has always been loyal to the Saudi authorities, is now on the verge of an unprecedented catastrophe. The calamity facing Yemenis will therefore continue for some time, and there is no light yet at the end of the Yemeni tunnel.

Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

 


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