The people of Yemen feel like the world has forgotten them, and with 80 percent of Yemen’s population in need of humanitarian assistance, it is a reasonable question to ask: “Has the world forgotten about Yemen?” However, for most, the more pressing question is, “what is even going on in Yemen?”
The Arab Spring, a wave of pro-democracy protests and uprisings which spread across the Arab world in 2010, catalyzed Yemen’s fight for democracy, which pushed the former president of Yemen out of power and instated his deputy. The political transition exacerbated the low standard of living in Yemen, prompting a civil war to begin in 2015. The war quickly evolved from a fight for democracy to a proxy war, in which Saudi Arabia and Iran are backing opposite sides, using Yemen as their playground. Saudi Arabia is at fault for a military campaign which launched over 21,000 — and counting — air strikes on civilians and the creation of a coalition that is responsible for a land, sea and air barrier around Yemen, making it impossible for the Yemeni people to receive aid.
Years of continuous air strikes, relentless weaponization of aid and innumerable violations of humanitarian laws have left Yemen in the worst humanitarian crisis the world has ever seen. As the war continues to destroy Yemen’s infrastructure, the issues of massive unemployment, food insecurity and lack of health resources run rampant, resulting in over 3 million people internally displaced, approximately 20 million people hungry, 19 million people without access to clean drinking water and nearly 20 million without access to basic health services. For reference, Yemen’s population is just over 28 million; in other words, if you were to equate the situation in Yemen to the United States, 187 million Americans would wake up hungry each day. As the war continues, these issues get worse, and bearing the brunt are the children, who are severely malnourished, without education — robbed of a bright future. The children of Yemen are at devastating odds with 45 percent of children under the age of 5 having permanent mental or physical disabilities.
As COVID-19 devastates developed countries, it hits Yemen, a war-torn country with the largest humanitarian crisis, the hardest. With only five labs capable of testing for COVID-19, it is impossible to know the true effect of the pandemic in Yemen. However, it is known that the population is dying at a higher rate than the rest of the world: 25 percent of people with COVID-19 in Yemen die, which is 5.9 times higher than the global average. This should come with no surprise that a healthcare system destroyed by the war cannot support its people; there are two hospital beds for every 7,000 people, only a few hundred ventilators and many hospitals closed in fear of contamination. Hospitals turn away patients, leaving them to die at home — their families to bury them.
As Yemen faces a humanitarian crisis, the rest of the world faces a humanity crisis. For as long as a Yemeni child dies every ten minutes from preventable causes, the world lacks empathy. We as a society need to refocus. We need to denounce the institutions that prevent Yemen from gaining the aid they need, denounce those who have the ability to help but are turning a blind eye and denounce our internal biases that are declaring the crisis in Yemen another problem of the Middle East. #YemenCantBreathe because the rest of the world is choking them.
Show Yemen that the world has not forgotten about them and do what the media is not doing: Talk about the suffering in Yemen. The Yemeni people depend on us educating ourselves and spreading awareness. If you are willing to take your activism a step further, below are links to organizations you can donate to that support the people of Yemen.
Maya Kadouh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.