One feeling, as sharp as a searing knife on skin, hot rage. Not one living being, let alone a child, should ever be subjected to experience the loss of one of the most fundamental human rights: the right to nutrition, to sustenance, to life. Yet, this is exactly what is happening to thousands of children, adults, and civilians alike in Yemen. And this isn’t new, it has been happening for Regardless it required a painfully haunting, devastating image to jolt the world into recognition of a humanitarian crisis gone wildly unheard of.
I have run into two headlines—one through a friend, and one deep within social media—that drew attention to the crisis. If it is such a devastatingly destructive event, and indeed it is, why is it that not one person around me is fully aware of the grave reality of individuals in Yemen? Perhaps it is apathy to the crisis or simply a lack of exposure. Starvation and lack of resources have consumed whole human beings to the bone. Skin stretched paper thin. Delicate yet all at once threatening, protruding bones. Hollow shells of a life unlived, torn away.
Yemen is holding on by the thinnest of threads to the last, shaky breaths of humans alike. And those last shaky breaths are blind—afflicting every being in sight. UN reports estimate that 14 million Yemeni civilians are on the brink of death due to famine. Almost half of the 29 million people occupying Yemen have no access to one of the most basic needs. To not be aware of this crisis and the events that led to its current state is to enable the cruelest and most unjustified of robberies.
Yemen’s socioeconomic and political vulnerability precedes any form of war.
Unification of North and South Yemen in 1990 began as an attempt to limit the violence between both countries. By 2011, conflict culminated in revolution against President Saleh.
Crisis followed Yemen predating the 2011 start to civil war against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. As a part of the Arab Spring, The Yemeni Uprising in 20ll began as a revolution against tumultuous social conditions like unemployment and governmental corruption. Protestors shifted focus to former President Saleh, and possible constitutional changes. A “Day of Rage” ensued, with protestors flooding Sana’a and Aden against military, pro-government protestors also in Sana’a. The “Friday of Anger” saw even more forceful anti-government protest from civilians, and on the “Friday of No Return” protests demanding Saleh’s resignation, with a total of about 60 activists killed by military fire. Months of painful bombings, protests, and momentary lapses in Saleh’s power resulted in the formal end of Saleh’s presidency in February 2012.
2012 marked the beginning of another chapter of Yemen’s tumultuous political climate.
New President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi struggled to take hold of the fragmented state Yemen was in. A breaking point was reached at the peak of a conflict that half a decade later is still raging on: Houthi militants seized control of the capital Sana’a and the government as a whole. These rebels continued to wage their own vicious, insatiable battle, seeking an end only in the forced resignation of President Hadi and his prime ministers in January 2015. And what’s more abhorrent is the US’ steadfast support of the Saudi Coalition (until very recently) which was behind the active bombings of civilian locations.
Shambles of a country and its people remain in the wake of these extensive, explosively violent incidents. If starvation isn’t afflicting a family, then displacement surely is. Fleeing for their lives in the face of perpetual conflict to rural Yemen, many are left increasingly susceptible to the effects of severe lack of resources—whether food, water, medicine, or the lethal combination of all three.
Resources are beyond scarce—they are untouchable, and one of many things lost in the face of war. Inflation has made the dwindling resources available unaffordable and accessible for millions of people alike. Food is not the only resource incapable of being imported; fuel and medical supplies have similarly been inaccessible. Infrastructure, already feeble from the onset of the war, is quite literally rubble. Homes, roads, water pumps, and countless more fundamental structures have all been reduced to dust and stone. How are we to expect people to survive in the face of such adversity, in a world of dust and hunger?
The UN has also estimated that a child under the age of 5 dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes. Humans are but liabilities now, reduced to casualties and statistics to begin to express the gravity of disaster. To try to find the balance between the fight for civil and human rights is to break the scale on which both rights operate. In the face of civil rights, human rights were equally swept into the wind. And the most unjustified twist in this all is the preventability of such heinous amounts of innocent death.
We may be located across an ocean, but that does not mean that we cannot create change. Exposure is the first step—speak to those around you, spread the message that a struggle of pure life and death is happening underneath all of our noses. The very least one could do is be aware. And from there, the opportunities are yours. Start an on-campus club, fundraise money and donate to organizations directly invested in the crisis itself. Draft petitions and letters. Rally and fight. Mobilize yourself and those around you to counteract the unjust mobilization of citizens in Yemen from their homes and lives. The road is rocky and steep. But strength is found in the unity of awareness we as a privileged population can create.