Yemen’s forgotten children
SAT, 03/20/2021 - 10:32
For many years, Yemen has been dubbed one of the poorest countries in the world, but the situation has become so dire that Unicef says a child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from preventable diseases.
The UN Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that 400 000 children under the age of five in Yemen could die from acute malnutrition. This can be added to the 85 000 children who have starved to death.
The reporting on the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today has been sporadic, and images of dying Yemeni children have not flooded our television screens as happened during the Ethiopian famine of the 1980s. But the situation is no less tragic or desperate.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said “Yemen is in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen in decades.” In a world that has become more insular and ravaged by Covid-19, funding for catastrophes like we see in Yemen today has dried up. Efforts to resolve the civil war, which remains one of the root causes of the tragedy, have also been unimpressive.
In a virtual donor conference, co-hosted by Switzerland and Sweden two weeks ago to raise money to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, only $1.7 billion (about R25.6bn) of the $3.85bn the UN had appealed for was raised.
Jan Egeland, the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council said on a recent visit to Yemen: “What is happening to the Yemenis is unimaginably cruel. Aid groups are catastrophically underfunded and overstretched. The parties to this senseless war specialise in producing suffering and the weapon of choice is hunger.”
UNDP country director Auke Lootsma has called this an “income famine” as families cannot afford a minimum food basket or minimum food supply with enough nutrition to survive the day. While food is available, it is not affordable for many Yemenis, given the loss of jobs and income-generating activities across the country, the depreciation of Yemen’s currency which stands at around 900 Yemeni Riyal to the US dollar, the pandemic, and the drying up of remittances from abroad. In July last year, there was an 80% drop in remittances, as well as a significant decrease in foreign aid to the country. An estimated half a million Yemeni public servants (including doctors and teachers) have not received a salary in four years. It is hard to think of another country that is in such a grave state of distress.
While one million women and two million children require treatment for acute malnutrition, half of all medical facilities have been destroyed or been forced to close. Many hospitals and clinics were destroyed in targeted bombings during the past almost seven years of conflict, compounding the health emergency in the country. Doctors Without Borders has had many of its health facilities destroyed in the conflict, but it continues to focus on the hardest-hit areas of Yemen, especially those near the conflict zones. MSF runs a total of 12 hospitals and health centres and assists 20 health facilities.
The worse the conflict becomes, the more it impacts on the ability to provide emergency health care. Just five months ago, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock, reported that there was an escalation in conflict with “47 active front lines across Yemen – the most ever recorded”. Some of the heaviest civilian casualties were also recorded at this time, and front-line humanitarian staff were being harassed by armed groups. As a result of the conflict, four million Yemenis have been displaced over the past six years. Only Syria, Colombia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have large internally displaced populations driven by conflict.
With 80% of the population in need of humanitarian assistance, the situation is becoming harder and harder to effectively respond to. As conflict rages, jobs are impossible to come by, or disappear altogether. Without income people starve, and severe malnutrition is associated with other health problems such as diarrhoea, measles, and respiratory infections, which makes basic primary health-care services all the more critical. Cholera has also increased, particularly since the recent flooding which affected 100 000 in the country, leaving thousands homeless. Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cholera outbreak during the rainy season was the second worst outbreak in history.
The cauldron of misery in Yemen seems to know no end. As parents are desperate to feed their children to keep them alive, some sell off their young daughters in order to buy food for the rest of the family, leading to an increase in child marriages across the country. There is only one solution to this vicious cycle of death and destruction – to end the war once and for all. A strict arms embargo on the country and a no-fly zone would be a start. Address I Wagner scene hi there I'm such a Ginny how do you calculate macabre