More Than Just a Forgotten War: An Abandoned People

In March, 2015, the civilian population in Yemen was struck with disaster. Pinned between two opponents, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, supported by the United States, and the Houthi forces, the Middle East’s poorest country, Yemen, (as reported by The New York Times), experienced the deadliest terror attack to occur there up to that date, The Wall Street Journal reports. Nearly all subsequent events have equaled or surpassed the damage of the first. Each side of the conflict supports a different leader—the Saudis, current President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, and the Houthis, former President Ali Abdullah Saleh—and fights to continue or to restore his respective power. While the parties involved play political battle ship, nearly 5,000 civilians have been killed, over 7,000 injured, and 20.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance (United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports).

Nearly every day civilians are targeted by airstrikes, landmines, and cluster munitions in their homes, at schools, and at hospitals, leaving nearly two million children out of school (reported by UNICEF). There are 2.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), and 14.8 million people in need of basic health care, unable to receive it. All parties in the conflict, including the spread of al-Qaeda and ISIL throughout the state — by way of minimal governmental structure — have blocked the access of humanitarian aid to those in need (Al Jazeera explains), who are approximately equivalent to the populations of New York City, Sao Paulo, or Beijing. While images representative of the conflict are of skeletal individuals and mushroom clouds of smoke, as reported by The New York Times, blockades to Yemen’s two main borders, Saudi Arabia and the Arabian Sea, prevent the entrance of essential food and medical supplies. Although one of the most devastating in modern day history, the conflict in Yemen, has been termed the “Forgotten War.”

Yemenis endure struggle day-in and day-out as all parties involved in the conflict violate the laws of war and numerous internationally-recognized human rights. The targeting of civilians, homes, and hospitals, as well as mistreatment of detainees has been rampant for the last two years, not to mention the recruitment and use of at least 1,800 children by all parties in the conflict, as reported by UNICEF. Internationally-banned antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions, airstrikes, and indiscriminate rockets have been deployed by all sides, and although named on the annual United Nations “list of shame”, reported Human Rights Watch, neither the Saudi Arabia-led coalition nor the Houthi forces have stopped persecuting the Yemeni civilian population, who live in constant fear, and feel abandoned by the rest of the world.

As Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD), and Cholera run rampant, 385,000 children under five years of age suffer from SAM, and 1,915 have died from AWD and Cholera, UNICEF reports, and one million lactating women are expected to suffer from Acute Malnutrition, the United States, and other countries—Turkey, Canada, United Arab Emirates—continue to supply the conflict’s parties with weapons. Amnesty International reports that approximately 5.9 billion US dollars worth of weapons, including drones, bombs, torpedoes, rockets, and missiles have been supplied to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition throughout the conflict. Although there have been protests over these countries’ involvement in several of the nations, the results of protests have been insufficient; weapons sales have either continued, or have only temporarily stopped. James Lynch, Deputy Director of Global Issues Program at Amnesty International, had this to say: “The irresponsible and unlawful flow of arms to the warring parties in Yemen has directly contributed to civilian suffering on a mass scale. It’s time for world leaders to stop putting their economic interests first”.

Amidst the destructive conflict however, UNICEF has successfully sent a number of aid workers into targeted areas, and in the last year was able to administer vaccinations throughout several IDP camps. Additionally, on 29 September 2017 the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) mandated an international group of experts to cumulatively investigate war and humanitarian violations, on all sides of the conflict in Yemen. Senior Director for Research at Amnesty International, Dr. Anna Neistat, responded to the mandate: “This resolution is a victory for Yemenis whose suffering at the hands of all parties to the conflict has been overlooked by the international community. The resolution offers hope for those seeking justice and can serve as a stepping stone towards accountability”.

There are ways that others can help as well, such as donating to organizations that have provided aid on the ground to over a million people, for example UNICEF, Amnesty International, CARE, and the Disasters Emergency Committee. Other ways to help include signing these organizations’ petitions, but, more importantly, talking about this conflict to raise awareness, to ensure that the ‘Forgotten War’ is acknowledged.

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