[Editor’s note: Reem Al-Khalqi comes from Yemen; she is currently studying sociology and social change at Lesley.]
I am sure that when most people think of “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” their first reaction is, “No, we read and hear a lot about Syria.” But unfortunately, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis is not in Syria; it is in Yemen. Yemen is a country that has suffered for years; in fact, it is the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula. During the Arab Spring, Yemenis decided to raise their voice for a change along with many other countries. Little did they know that this would be the start of what the United Nations’ humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock recently called Yemen’s “Apocalypse.” In January 2018, he warned of severe outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria, and said that “Unless the situation changes, we’re going to have the world’s worst humanitarian disaster for 50 years.”
But things are not changing. Here’s a quick glimpse of how Yemen’s political situation deteriorated. In 2011, Yemenis took part in the Arab Spring, which, according to some political analysts, resulted in a positive outcome. The revolution forced Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh to finally hand over power after 33 years to his Vice President Abdul Mansour Hadi. However, the suffering did not end under Hadi’s rule either. A Shii’a group called the Houthis, rebelled against Hadi’s internationally recognized government, resulting in violent conflict between the two parties. In 2015, Hadi sought help from Saudi Arabia, which led to the Saudi Coalition’s intervention in Yemen. But the interventions resulted in a series of war crimes, including killing women and children, and bombarding civilians in public areas such as mosques, grocery stores, hospitals, airports, and even schools.
Yemen has been enduring the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention for 3 years now. According to the UN, the results of this war are as following: 2 million Yemenis displaced, 22 million (half of them children) in need of humanitarian assistance to stay alive, 24.3 million now lack access to electricity, 17.8 million are food insecure, half a million children are suffering from acute malnutrition, 15.7 million lack access to clean water, resulting in a cholera outbreak that has reached more than 1 million cases. The numbers have continued to increase as Saudi Arabia placed a blockade on all Yemeni land, air, and seaports; this prevented aid from coming in to the country and reaching millions of people in need.
People who are reading this article may feel helpless in seeing such big numbers, and that may explain why this information is being ignored by so many news channels. But I believe there are several other possible reasons why the devastation in Yemen is not getting the attention it deserves in the media, including the American media. For one, because the situation is so intense and dangerous there, many networks and newspapers don’t send their reporters to cover it. For another, when journalists do go there, some have been attacked– this is especially true for local journalists who are risking their lives to tell the story. But a third reason may be politics: these days, the Trump administration is friendly with Saudi Arabia, and it is the Saudi-led coalition that has been bombing Yemen; perhaps some news reporters believe they should not take the side of Yemen when Saudi Arabia is our ally.
But as I see it, this crisis is no longer about who is on whose side, and it should not matter which countries are allies. There is a bigger story, one that is about our humanity; we need to think seriously about what we can do to end this catastrophe. Sadly, since I started attending Lesley, I’ve seldom heard any of my professors talking about the issue, and I believe most students don’t know a lot about the situation either. Therefore, I urge all professors at Lesley to dedicate some time to discuss the Yemeni crisis in their classes. The more everyone understands what is happening (and why), perhaps they will want to take some action.
And even though we are in America, there are still many actions we can take, so that we can help to save innocent lives: for example, we can speak out against governments who continue to push the war in Yemen. Or we can donate to organizations that are trying to get aid to the people (I recommend UNICEF, Save the Children, Oxfam, and The Red Cross). Or even just simply spreading the word and raising awareness about the war crimes happening in Yemen would be an important place to start. Just by reading this article, talking to a friend about Yemen, discussing it in your classes, or sharing something on your social media account, you are helping to shed light on the Yemeni crisis. As citizens in an increasingly globalized world, it is our responsibility to help the people of Yemen, so many of whom are facing starvation, disease, and death.