Yemen’s Humanitarian Crisis

Yemen's humanitarian crisis

Lara Kajs | 10 September 2019 |

Yemen is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. For the past five years, Yemen has endured civil conflict between Houthi rebels and opposition forces that has basically left the country with no governing body to speak of and a country that has been destroyed by the aerial bombing campaign by the Saudi-led coalition. Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is worsening as institutions of government and civil society break down due to the conflict.

Human Rights Violations

Fear has been generated in Sana’a and throughout the region. The increasing hostilities have resulted in massive human rights violations by Houthi rebels against women and children including forced displacement, abduction, sexual violence, child soldiering, and trafficking. The Houthi denied the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Yemeni people. Violence against journalists, former government servants, politicians, attorneys, and university faculty, has increased, including arbitrary detaining and disappearances. Rival groups, such as the Islah Sunni Islamist party, have been targeted by the Houthi.

Houthi rebels are responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths; however, the United Nations estimates that most civilian deaths are a result of the Saudi-led aerial bombing campaign that began in March 2015.

Offenses by Coalition

While it has been called an ‘intervention’, the aerial bombing campaign has been anything but. It is inconceivable that bombing a country to death could benefit anyone. Nearly two-thirds of civilians killed in the Yemen conflict have been casualties of the Saudi-led airstrikes. In addition to aerial bombing, coalition forces have been accused of using cluster bombs, weapons that are prohibited in residential neighborhoods under international law.

The coalition has received harsh criticism for its indiscriminate bombing of civilian populations including schools and hospitals. At one point Saudi Arabia designated the entire governorate of Sa’ada as an enemy military district. A medical facility backed by Médecins San Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) in the northern Razeh district was the target of a bombing in January 2016 during which at least five people were killed, and ten others injured. A month earlier, on 3 December, the MSF center in Taiz was hit, killing five and wounding ten.

In an effort to prevent more civilian harm, the Dutch Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favor of an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia on 17 February 2016. The intention of the resolution is to encourage governments to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia. A resolution initiated by the European Parliament on 25 February called on the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini “To launch an initiative aimed at imposing an EU arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.”

For its part, the United States is not immune from criticism as the country shares responsibility in the aerial bombing campaign for being a supplier of weapons and military intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition.

Humanitarian Crisis

Currently, there are more than 2.7 million people displaced in Yemen, with at least 7 million facing food and water shortages. More than 1000 children have been killed or injured and there is evidence of children being recruited to fight in the conflict. UN aid agencies have reported that they are being prevented from delivering aid to civilians. This is a concern in the cities of Taiz and Aden, which have large civilian populations and have been subject to substantial fighting over the past few months.

Negotiating an end to the civil conflict will take time, which is something that people in besieged areas do not have. The immediate priority should be to secure an agreement on delivering humanitarian aid and supplies to conflict-torn areas.

Photo Credit: 615 Cholera Treatment Center Bombed by Saudi-led Coalition – Felton Davis – Licensed by CC. 2.0 license.