To commit such atrocities, the Saudi coalition needed decisive logistical assistance from countries including the United States and the United Kingdom. The consequences have been brutal. According to a report from April 2019 by the Pardee Center for the United Nations Development Programme, as well as data from ACLED, the death toll in the nation since the beginning of the war far exceeds 250,000 and may even be close to 300,000.
It is hard to comprehend the magnitude of the crisis in Yemen: approximately one child dies every 12 minutes in the country, where 24 million people need humanitarian aid.
From Trump to Biden
Donald Trump’s foreign policy has repeatedly tried to undermine the humanitarian crisis in the poorest countries. Two such recent attempts were the efforts to suspend aid to Yemen in March of this year, followed by Trump’s decision, announced in May, that the US would leave the World Health Organization, which will have a disastrous effect if President-elect Joe Biden does not rejoin the organisation. The US withdrawing its funding will translate into the abandonment of millions of people who depend on these funds to survive in Yemen. These endeavours were unsurprising considering the Trump’s administration support – and its “blank cheque”, to quote President-elect Joe Biden – for Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Meanwhile there are high expectations for Biden. Despite having been the vice-president under Barack Obama, who supported the war in Yemen, Biden has been pushed to “reassess” the US’s relations with Saudi Arabia, due to pressure from progressives and the unpopularity of the war. While this has given many hope, there are tough weeks ahead before Trump leaves the White House. Trump’s apparent intention to strain relations with Iran and his plans to designate the Houthis as a terrorist group may aggravate the toughest sectors of the Houthis, worsening the war and pushing away any prospect of peace.
A series of disasters
The war is not the only catastrophe to have befallen Yemen this year. Heavy rains between spring and summer caused immense damage and displaced 300,000. In fact, Yemen is a clear example of the tragic consequences of the climate crisis, the effects of which amount to more than just floods. Nearly 18 million people have no access to clean drinking water, a problem that will worsen in the future.
For Yemenis, COVID-19 was only the latest epidemic; the county has in recent years faced outbreaks of malaria, dengue and cholera. That the latter is a perfectly preventable disease that should be eradicated, reminds us that while the world was seeking vaccines for COVID-19, people in Yemen were suffering the consequences of living without clean water. Worse still, the healthcare system in Yemen has practically collapsed.
Even COVID-19 has become a political struggle, especially in the area controlled by the Houthis, who have refused to recognise cases and have spread fake news and disinformation that stigmatises those who contract the disease, meaning many do not seek treatment.
This post was originally published on Radio Free.