Famine in Yemen (2016–present)
This article needs to be updated.May 2019)(
|Famine in Yemen|
المجاعة في اليمن
|Total deaths||More than 85,000 children (adults unknown)|
|Death rate||At least 130 children (adults unknown) per day|
(December 2016–November 2017 estimate)
|Consequences||2016–2020 Yemen cholera outbreak|
Since 2016, a famine has been ongoing in Yemen which started during the Yemeni Civil War. More than 85,000 children have died as a result of the famine as of 2018. In May 2020, UNICEF described Yemen as "the largest humanitarian crisis in the world", and estimated that 80% of the population, over 24 million people, were in need of humanitarian assistance. The famine is being compounded by an outbreak of cholera, which is resulting in 5,000 new cases daily in June 2017. Devastation of Yemeni infrastructure, health, water and sanitation systems and facilities by Saudi-led coalition air strikes led to the spread of cholera. UNICEF says that there have been many attacks on water systems in Yemen cutting of water to many.
After 5 November 2017, the famine in Yemen was compounded by Saudi Arabia, who tightened its sea, air and land blockade of Yemen. According to the manager of Al Hudaydah port, which is under the control of the Houthis, medicine and food cannot go to Al-Hudaydah, since Saudi-led airstrikes destroyed the port's industrial cranes in August 2015. On 23 November 2017, the blockade was partially but not fully lifted, and some humanitarian supplies were allowed into the country.
In October 2018, the United Nations warned that 13 million people face starvation in what could be "the worst famine in the world in 100 years." The following month, a report by Save the Children estimated that 85,000 children under the age of five have died from starvation.
Saudi Arabian-led intervention
The famine is the direct result of the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen and blockade. Yemen was already the most impoverished nation in the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East, and Al Hudaydah one of the poorest cities of Yemen, but the war and the naval blockade by the Saudi-led coalition and the United States Navy made the situation much worse. Fishing boats, the main livelihood of Al Hudaydah's residents, were destroyed by Saudi airstrikes, leaving them without any means to provide for their families. As a result, one child dies every ten minutes on average. A UN panel of experts found that Saudi Arabia is purposefully obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid into Yemen.
Saudi Arabia was reported to be deliberately targeting means of food production and distribution in Yemen by bombing farms, fishing boats, ports, food storages, food factories, and other businesses in order to exacerbate famine. These actions led to the UN accusing the Saudi-led coalition of committing war crimes and having a "complete disregard for human life". 1,500 schools were damaged and destroyed during Yemeni Civil War. After Saudi-backed Hadi's forces retook Mocha from Houthis they barred fishermen from working. The Union of Yemeni fishermen accused the coalition of waging war against fishermen.
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy accused the United States of complicity in Yemen's humanitarian crisis, saying: "Thousands and thousands inside Yemen today are dying. ... This horror is caused in part by our decision to facilitate a bombing campaign that is murdering children and to endorse a Saudi strategy inside Yemen that is deliberately using disease and starvation and the withdrawal of humanitarian support as a tactic."
The British researcher Alex de Waal has considered the famine in Yemen as
The world’s worst since North Korea in the 1990s and the one in which Western responsibility is clearest... Britain has sold at least £4.5 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia and £500 million to the UAE since the war began. The US role is even bigger: Trump authorized arms sales to the Saudis worth $110 billion last May. Yemen will be the defining famine crime of this generation, perhaps this century.
Houthi food confiscation
Houthi rebels have been accused of unlawfully confiscating food and medicine from civilians under their control by organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW), MSF, and the World Food Programme (WFP), with a WFP survey finding that food aid was not reaching the majority of those eligible to receive it in Houthi–held Sanaʽa and Saada.
Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi's decision to relocate the Central Bank of Yemen to Aden in September 2016 was reported to have exacerbated the vulnerable living conditions of the population. The move "was aimed primarily at disabling the Houthi-Saleh administered bureaucracy based in Sana’a. Instead, it provoked a severe liquidity crisis that has fueled famine, as somewhere between 8.5 million and 10 million Yemenis rely on public sector salaries that have been unpaid for more than a year."
Sana'a Centre for Strategical Studies recorded that the banking crisis in fact began in early 2010 when American banks began closing the accounts of Yemeni banks, and with the start of the conflict in 2011, as Yemen came under UN Chapter 7 jurisdiction. "Large European and American banks ceased to interact with Yemeni banks completely. Yemeni banks became both unable to honor customer requests to withdraw cash – leading to further hoarding outside the banking system – and had no domestic currency to deposit at the Central Bank of Yemen. These multiple, interrelated and mutually reinforcing factors helped instigate a severe public sector cash liquidity crisis in mid-2016."
On 5 November 2017, the Saudi-led coalition began blocking all fuel shipments to Yemen, causing farmers to abandon modern equipment like tractors and forcing hospitals to function without generators.
On 11 December 2017, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, affirmed that 8 million in the country are in danger of famine unless access to immediate humanitarian aid is allowed. On 13 December 2017, USAID administrator, Mark Andrew Green, stated that there are no signs that the blockade had been in any way eased and Yemeni ports are still fully blocked.
According to The Economist, another major cause of the famine is the popularity of the cultivation and consumption of khat, which requires a significant amount of water to grow in addition to being the most popular drug in Yemen. Khat cultivation is monopolised by the Houthi rebels.
In July 2018, a 25% increase in severe hunger cases in Yemen compared to 2017 was reported.
In a September 2018 column in The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof stated that the United States is supporting crimes against humanity in Yemen, adding that "America is helping to kill, maim and starve Yemeni children. At least eight million Yemenis are at risk of starvation from an approaching famine caused not by crop failures but by our actions and those of our allies. The United Nations has called it the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and we own it."
On 31 October 2018, the United States and the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia's biggest arm suppliers, called for a ceasefire in the conflict in Yemen. A press release from the United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, stated "A cessation of hostilities and vigorous resumption of a political track will help ease the humanitarian crisis as well. It is time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise, and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction." On 10 November 2018, the U.S. announced it would no longer refuel coalition aircraft operating over Yemen. The U.S. continues its backing of the Saudi-led intervention with weapons sales and intelligence sharing.
In November 2018, according to the New York Times report, 1.8 million children in Yemen are severely malnourished.
On 3 August 2019, a United Nations report said the US, UK and France may be complicit in committing war crimes in Yemen by selling weapons and providing support to the Saudi-led coalition which is using the starvation of civilians as a tactic of warfare.
As of March 2020, UNICEF estimates that 2 million children under the age of 5 suffer from acute malnutrition and require treatment.
According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNICEF, and the World Food Programme (WFP) and partners, 40% of Yemen’s population was expected to suffer from acute food insecurity because of the war, flood, coronavirus, and locust swarms, by the end of 2020. Within 6 months "high levels of acute food insecurity" was estimated to increase from 2 million to 3.2 million, even if the food aid was maintained.
- Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
- 2016–19 Yemen cholera outbreak
- Airstrikes on hospitals in Yemen
- Water supply and sanitation in Yemen
- Blockade of Yemen
- Destruction of Yemeni cultural heritage by Saudi-led coalition
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