A recent article by the BBC says we are faced with the largest humanitarian crisis since 1945. Recently, at the U.N Security Council, the Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr Stephen O’Brien said:
…without collective effort and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death…and many more will suffer and die from disease.
More than 20 million people face famine in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria.
Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations…more than 20 million people across four countries face starvation and famine…
Yemen is at the highest risk of imminent deaths, where 18.8 million people need urgent assistance and more than 7 million are starving. The Yemeni Civil War that escalated in March 2015 impacts directly on these figures. From March 2015 to January 2017, 16,200 people have been killed in the war, including 10,000 civilian casualties.
A summary of the situation in Yemen according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
- Yemen was already the poorest Country in the Middle-East before the Yemeni Civil war escalated in March 2015.
- An estimated 14 million people are currently food insecure, including 7 million people who don’t know where their next meal will come from. This represents a 33 percent increase since late 2014.
- An estimated 14.4 million people require assistance to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation, including 8.2 million who are in acute need.
- An estimated 14.8 million people lack access to basic healthcare, including 8.8 million living in severely under-served areas. Medical materials are in chronically short supply, and only 45 per cent of health facilities are functioning. As of October 2016, at least 274 health facilities had been damaged or destroyed in the conflict.
- About 3.3 million children and pregnant or lactating women are acutely malnourished, including 462,000 children under 5 suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This represents a 63 per cent increase since late 2015.
- An estimated 4.5 million people need emergency shelter or essential household items.
- About 2 million school-age children are out of school and need support to fulfill their right to education. More than 1,600 schools are currently unfit for use due to conflict-related damage, or occupation by armed groups.
- An estimated 8 million Yemenis have lost their livelihoods or are living in communities with minimal to no basic services. Communities require support to promote resilience, including clearance of landmines and other explosives.
- More than 600 health facilities and 1,600 schools remained closed due to conflict-related damages. A five fold increase in the recruitment of child soldiers has been documented along with a six-fold increase in the number of children killed or maimed in 2015 as compared to 2014.
- The ongoing conflict has also significantly affected Yemen’s economy. According to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, the GDP contracted nearly 35 per cent in 2015. The Government was only able to pay some salaries, with no resources available for supplies or maintenance of infrastructure. This has severely jeopardized the ability of public institutions to deliver basic services.
The Yemeni Civil war is between the Iranian backed rebel Shia group, the Houthis, and the Saudi Arabian allied forces who are loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. Abd Hadi was elected president of Yemen in 2012, but fled in late March 2015 when Houthi rebels advanced on the City of Aden, triggering Saudi airstrikes. He returned from exile in September 2015.
Hadi first served as a military officer in British-run South Yemen in the 1960s, then under the southern People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (PDRY), and – after a 1986 split within the southern regime – in the armed forces of Saleh’s Yemen Arab Republic. Hadi trained with the British at Sandhurst, the Soviets in Moscow and the Egyptians in Cairo. He holds degrees in military science from the UK and the former USSR, and played an important part in integrating the thousands of southern troops who fled the south after the 1986 civil war into the Yemen Arab Republic’s armed services. The most important thing to know about Hadi, is that he is backed by Saudi Arabia, and by default, the U.S.
At its core, the Yemeni Civil War is a power struggle between the Shias and the Sunnis (if you don’t know the difference, find an explanation here). It is also a complicated Geo-Political landscape involving the U.S, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and last but certainly not least, oil.
The Sunnis are backed by Saudia Arabia and want to reinstate the ousted government of President Hadi and destroy the Houthi Rebels. The Houthi Rebels, officially known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God) began as a theological movement, preaching peace in the early 1990’s. Saudi Arabia sees the Houthi rebels as a fighting front for Iran (Shia) and can’t risk having a Shia dominated government in its backyard.
Since March 2015, the U.S. has been providing support to a Saudi-led military coalition fighting the rebels. On October 12, 2016, a U.S warship fired missiles into Yemen, destroying radar sites on the Yemeni Coast.
U.S. Navy ships have often been deployed to the waters off Yemen to prevent a military or terrorist threat to the key shipping lanes. They have a strong interest in ensuring the safety of commercial shipping and the 3-to-4 million barrels of oil that travel through the vital waterway each day.
A stable government in Yemen is important to Gulf countries (i.e Saudi Arabia) wary of Iran’s military support and influence with the Houthis. Gulf countries fear an Iranian military presence in the Arabian Peninsula, a concern that would exacerbate the already tense relationship with Iran because the threat its nuclear program has posed to the region. Many countries have an interest in how this war plays out, there are allegations that the United Kingdom is supplying the Saudi’s with illegal Cluster Bombs to carry out bombing raids in attacks such as this.
According to the U.S State Department, the U.S. has given more than $327 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen in fiscal year 2016. Giving with one hand, then taking with the other.
Chris Murphy, a Democratic Senator from Connecticut, says the U.S is becoming an indispensable partner to Saudi Arabia and its bombing campaign in Yemen. He goes on:
The United States provides the bombs. We provide the refueling planes in mid-air. We provide the intel…I think its safe to say that this bombing campaign in Yemen could not happen without the United States…its wild to me that we’re not talking about this…the U.S is at war in Yemen today, there’s no doubt about it.
President Donald Trump ordered his first counter-terrorism operation in Yemen on 29 January 2017. The dawn raid in the southern province of Al-Bayda involved missiles and helicopter machine guns. Around 30 people, including 10 women and children were killed in the raids.
The US military confirmed 14 al-Qaeda fighters had been killed during the assault, and a further two in a drone strike on central Yemen later in the day. An American Navy Seal was killed in retaliation, and three others injured.
An anonymous witness described the initial assault:
The operation began at dawn when a drone bombed the home of Abdulraoof al-Dhahab and then helicopters flew up and unloaded paratroopers at his house and killed everyone inside…
Donald Trump later said he was, ‘saddened’ to hear of the death of the US Navy Seal who, “…was taken in our fight against the evil of radical Islamic Terrorism.”
President Trumps proposed Travel Ban could stop victims of the war from fleeing the County. Senator Chris Murphy is leading the charge against President Trump‘s newly revised travel ban.
Murphy has introduced a bill that would block President Trump’s executive order that bans immigration from six mostly Muslim countries. The President’s revised travel ban blocks citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from obtaining visas for at least 90 days.
President Trump is continuing Obama’s war in Yemen, but at the same time, attempting to block the victims of the war from seeking refuge. The U.S has been a long term ally of the Saudi’s because of one thing. Oil. During Barack Obama’s administration, the U.S offered Saudi Arabia more than $115 billion in weapons, other military equipment and training, the most of any U.S. administration in the 71-year U.S.-Saudi alliance.
Saudi Arabia is the largest and most important producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the bloc that controls around 40 percent of the world’s oil. The United States, was until recently, the world’s top oil importer, an alliance with Saudi Arabia makes geopolitical sense. The U.S. pumps more than 9 million barrels of oil per day, which almost matches the amount in Saudi Arabia.
The new head of Donald Trump’s U.S Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, recently said that he is not convinced that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal was the main cause of climate change. A view in contradiction to the majority of scientific researchers.
The biggest humanitarian crisis in 72 years is happening right now.