Conflict in Yemen reaches crisis with famine, disease, US bombs falling on civilians

According to Yemeni humanitarian group Mwatana and U.K.-based Save the Children, over 5 million children in the tiny Middle Eastern nation of Yemen are now at risk of starvation.

Decades of civil strife and political instability followed by the 2011 Arab Spring and the three-year old civil war have taken a toll, causing widespread food shortages and a decline in medical stores to treat civilians injured in the conflict and victims of an intensifying Saudi-led air campaign.

In accordance with analyses from both Mwatana and Save the Children, the endless conflict, an economy in shambles, devalued currency and skyrocketing food prices have placed the population at risk of succumbing to malnutrition.

Graphic: The situation in Yemen ENG

Save the Children says it treats 400,000 annually for malnutrition and expects 36,000 children to die of malnurishment in 2018.

A situation so dire, according to the U.N., the war’s cost in civilian terms has exceeded 6,000 dead and another 10,000 injured, with scores more dying from malnutrition or preventable disease.  In addition to those grim numbers, relief agencies have estimated 22 million, 80 percent of Yemen’s total population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Characterized by some humanitarian groups as the world’s leading food emergency, far-reaching food shortages provoked a cholera outbreak, affecting as many as 1.1 million civilians.  Two thousand have reportedly died during the outbreak.

At the core of the food shortages is fighting over control of major transportation hubs on the coast.  As fighting shifted away from the capital city of Sana’a to the coastal enclaves, port cities Saleef, Aden and Hudaydah saw supplies of food deliveries dwindle with civilians living in the interior of the country affected the most.

Humanitarian groups fear damage to or a blockade of the port cities could bring about a complete halt to the offloading of food and medical supplies to those in greatest need of relief and in rebel-held areas.

Map showing control of Yemen

Compounding the grim situation is the intensification of merciless Saudi-led bombing campaign, which is targeting areas controlled by Houthi rebels.

A source of intense international criticism, Saudi Arabia’s military machine is aided by the U.S. and a handful of European nations.  At the heart of the international outcry is the delivery of explosive ordinance, particularly laser-guided bombs from the U.S. and Europe’s Saudi allies to Riyadh.

Despite the outcry, neither the U.S. nor Saudi Arabia’s European suppliers have halted lethal aid.

The conflict has roots in the collapse of an agreement to transfer power from long-time ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh to deputy Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in 2011 amid the Arab Spring protests.

Once allies, the two split with the ousted Saleh forming an alliance with the growing Houthi movement in Yemen in a bid to regain power in Sana’a.

Disenchanted with the Hadi regime, Houthi rebels forced Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia in 2015.

Alarmed by the swift rise of the Houthi movement, Saudi Arabia, supported by eight other Arab nations, formed a military coalition aiming to return Hadi to power.  The Arab bid to expel the Houthis from Yemen has been backed militarily primarily by the U.S., U.K. and France.

U.N. efforts to mediate ceasefires or end to the conflict have consistently broken down.


[Deutsche Welle] [CNN] [Photo courtesy Paste]