SHAFAQNA – A land scarred by nine months of war, Yemen remains but an open wound onto Southern Arabia, a shadow of its former self, and a humanitarian wasteland – still few media outlets have paused long enough to look at Yemen’s unfolding crisis, for any criticism of Yemen’s war would equate to a condemnation of Saudi Arabia.
“Night after night in Yemen’s beleaguered capital, Sana’a, I hear the continuous clack-clack-clack of anti-aircraft fire and the low hum of fighter jets overhead. I’m writing this sat in the corner of my bathroom, the “safe” space farthest from the window. It’s almost midnight and the electricity has cut again, leaving the glow of my laptop screen as the only light,” wrote Mark Kaye in a report for the Guardian last August (2015).
A brief glimpse into the permanent state of fear and helplessness Yemenis have had to endure since March 2015, Kaye painted this one impoverished nation’s new reality with honesty – offering context and color to this war the world has chosen to ignore on account of geopolitics.
“This campaign Riyadh has run against Yemen to restore the forfeited rule of resigned President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, has led to the obliteration of Yemen’s civil, military and state infrastructures,” said Adams Nichols, a researcher told the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies.
“The coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia have brought death and misery to 20 of Yemen’s 22 provinces … few corners of Yemen have been spared mass bombing. Such a campaign has gone on without any form of international oversight,” Nichols added.
By Summer 2015 the UN estimated the death toll at 2000, among which a majority of unarmed civilians. By December, Fatik al-Rodaini, from the Mona Relief Organization established that this figure had risen to over 7500, notwithstanding those deaths which resulted from a lack of access to medical care or food as a result as the Saudi-led, Saudi-organized blockade.
Dr Riaz Karim, the co-founder of the Mona Relief Organization, and former UN official explained how Yemen was pushed past beyond the humanitarian breaking point under the pressure of Riyadh’s blockade. “Saudi officials have closed up Yemen to the world, preventing food, medicine and other products from entering the country on account it intends to flush out all resistance to its mandate … Such behaviour contradicts humanitarian law, international law and human rights law – more importantly it is a grave infringement on Yemenis’ dignity. A entire country, a people has been forced to live in complete and utter destitution over a political dispute. More than anything else it is the silence of the international community which we have found most deplorable.”
“The crisis has been compounded by the fact that getting aid into Yemen and transporting it around the country is very limited. Aid agencies like Save the Children are frantically trying to scale up our response, but it’s almost impossible when we can’t get relief supplies into the country,” Mark kaye wrote in August 2015, highlighting this thaw in between political powers and the humanitarian community.
Yemen is slowly being strangled by a de facto blockade that prevents enough food and medicine getting to the families who need them most. Tens of thousands of children have already died from hunger-related causes, over a million face a similar fate reported Sana al-Dhafer a local social worker in Sana’a.
“Hunger and diseases are a real worry … millions of people in Yemen today are hungry. Hundreds of thousands of families have sold everything they have to feed their children, and today they are reaching the end of their tethers. There is nothing left of my country today. We all have been made destitute,” she told Shafaqna.
Across the country civilian infrastructures, including health facilities, markets, shops and schools, have been damaged and destroyed by airstrikes and ground war. “For too long all parties to this conflict have been allowed by the international community to show an unashamed contempt for human life,” Sana added.
Beyond the intolerable cruelty of war, Yemenis say they feel the sting of betrayal most.
“The world has forsaken us! We have become no more than meat for the canons. The world only sees of us our poverty and the color of our skin … Before the might and riches of Saudi Arabia we are invisible casualties. But we are not poor because we are careless or lazy … our nation was failed by design. Our future was stolen and now the world will allow for a tyrant to enslave us,” said Dr Hasan al-Ansi from Sana’a.
“I have seen the destruction in the highlands (northern provinces) … I have seen pregnant women deliver stillborn babies because of malnutrition. I have heard children cry from hunger, and fathers contemplate suicide for they no longer could bare their family suffering. Yemen has known poverty for a long time, but ever like this … This misery I see everyday stains the soul,” he further emphasized.
Yemen currently has the greatest level of humanitarian needs in the world. After an armed conflict erupted in March, over 20 million people–80 percent of the population—is in desperate need of humanitarian assistance. Just 14% of national fuel requirements have arrived in country since the end of March putting 10 million people at risk of losing access to water. Those are the realities Yemenis have to contend with, yet it fails to describe the pain they have been made to suffer through.
On January 5, Sana’a Center for the Blind was targeted by an airstrike – While this one “incident” might have been dismissed as a case of bad information, an unfortunate tragedy on the part of the Saud-led coalition, it betrays a troubling pattern warned Fatma Muhammad, a journalist from Ibb, now based in the capital, Sana’a.
“Yemen war has been characterized by the suffering imposed on our children! When a military power systematically targets children, there is no other solution but to resist,” she said.
“This is what Yemen is doing today … resisting against all odds.”
By Catherine Shakdam for the Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies