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Why Yemen is in the Brink of Extinction

Every nation is facing some kind of threat to their lives today due to the outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19. However, as a nation affected by a civilian war for six years, and the worst cholera outbreak in history, in which already 80% of the people of the country require the humanitarian aid, the health officials fear that the pandemic spread could swipe off an entire nation off the world map.

Yemen, officially known as the Republic of Yemen is located on the south-west corner of the Arabian Peninsula. Most of its northern border is covered by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The southern part is bordered by the Gulf of Aden and the Arabian Sea, the red sea from west and Oman from the east. The land area of the country is 527,968 km2 with several islands such as Kamaran and Hanish in the Red Sea and Socotra and Bi’r Ali in the Arabian Sea.

The city “Sana’a” in the western part of the country functions as the capital which is 2200m high above the sea level. For centuries Sana’a is considered as an economic, political and religious main centre. The Yemeni population is estimated as 29.88 million according to 2020 stats. And the majority of the population are Arabs, whilst some of the inhabitants have African, South Asian, and European origins.

Due to its fertile lands and trade prosperity, Yemen was home to several ancient kingdoms. Later on, Yemen was the first place to grow coffee for trade purposes, before coffee plants were spread to other parts of the world.

Today the Yemeni economy is very poor, and Yemen is considered as the poorest country in the gulf region. The economy rests largely on oil exports, remittances from abroad, and foreign aid, which fuel a consumer market, the informal sector, and a booming qat production. However the ongoing conflicts have resulted in some 20 million people needing help securing food, and Almost 10 million of them are considered “one step away from famine” by the UN.

Once a prosperous Yemen now suffers from long term corruption and economic difficulties after the unification. Religious, tribal, and geographical divisions play a vital role in Yemeni politics, something that triggers the occurrence of violence from time to time.

Yemen ranks 167th out of 180 countries included in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index made by Reporters without Borders. The reason behind this low ranking might be attributed to the political division in the country.  

The onset of the civilian wars in 2015 started to devastate the country. Two parties the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi-led Yemeni government and the Houthi armed movement, along with their supporters and allies. Both claiming to constitute the official government of Yemen.

On 21 March 2015, in the wake of taking over Sanaʽa and the Yemeni government, the Houthi-drove Supreme Revolutionary Committee announced a general preparation to topple Hadi and extend their control by driving into southern regions. The Houthi hostile, aligned with military powers faithful to Saleh, started battling the following day in Lahij Governorate. By 25 March, Lahij tumbled to the Houthis and they arrived at the outskirts of Aden, the seat of power for Hadi’s legislature. Hadi fled the nation that day. 

Simultaneously, an alliance drove by Saudi Arabia launched military operations by using airstrikes to reestablish the previous Yemeni government. The United States provided intelligence and help to the campaign. As per ACLED, more than 100,000 individuals have been killed in Yemen, including more than12, 000 civilians. 

The conflict has been broadly observed as an augmentation of the Iran–Saudi Arabia proxy conflict and as a way to combat Iranian influence in the region. In 2018, the United Nations cautioned that 13 million Yemeni regular citizens face starvation in what it says could turn into “the most noticeably awful famine on the planet in 100 years.” 

The US has been providing bombs to help the Saudi forces and airstrikes in Yemen. In March 2019, this drove the United States Senate to pass a resolution to end US backing of Saudi Arabia. It was vetoed by President Donald Trump, and in May, the Senate failed to override the veto.

Unfortunately, in January 2020 there was a sudden escalation in hostilities between the Houthis and coalition-led forces, with fighting on several front lines, missile strikes and air raids

In short, Yemen is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world in the last 100 years. Thousands of civilians have died from preventable causes, including malnutrition, disease and poor health. 

According to the reports of UNICEF, the ongoing war has made Yemen a living hell for the children. An estimated 2 million children are acutely malnourished, including almost 360,000 children under five years old who are struggling to survive. Simply in Yemen today, in every 10 minutes a child is dying from a preventable disease, just a child is dead when we finish reading the tragedy of the people of Yemen.

“He is forced to clean himself with dirty water.

 He is 1 of 2 million people displaced in Yemen.

 He has lost his childhood to war.

 He deserves better”. — ICRC May 28, 2019

Further, the reports by UNICEF say that 50 per cent of Yemeni children under the age of 5 are chronically malnourished today, and the children will never develop to their full intellectual potential. That is bad for the children and bad for Yemen if we ever want Yemen to be a country where it is good to live as a child.

Due to the dramatic decrease in vaccination level, the countrywide immunity has collapsed, paving way for outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and the current pandemic of COVID-19 have fatal impacts on children and elders.

More than 80% of Yemen’s population lack access to health care services, which makes them particularly vulnerable to diseases that can generally be cured or eradicated elsewhere in the world. The health care system has been decimated by years of unrelenting war.

Apart from the tragedy of the ongoing war, Yemen is on its knees as its already facing the biggest cholera outbreak in history. On 3 June 2020, the Ministry of Public Health and Population of Yemen reported 2489 suspected cases of cholera and one associated death with 16% of the cases reported as severe. Despite the number of cases reported in 2020, since 2016 the country has reported millions of cholera cases and thousands of deaths.

Every nation is facing some kind of threat to their lives today due to the outbreak of the pandemic COVID-19. However, as a nation affected by a civilian war, and the worst cholera outbreak in history, in which already 80% of the people around 24 million people in need of the humanitarian aid, the health officials fear that the pandemic spread could swipe off an entire nation off the world map.

Amidst to the daily grind of increasing temperatures, the lack of regular power, and recent flash floods and amidst an ongoing war for the sixth year. The southern city of Aden has recently become the epicentre of Yemen’s COVID-19 outbreak.

Officially, cases in Yemen are below 909, with 248 deaths, However, with minimal testing capacity and a health system that has largely collapsed, the aid agencies warn the real figures are likely far higher.

“Five years of fighting had caused Yemen’s healthcare system to collapse in large parts,” says Dr.HaDuong of the MSF organization. “Now COVID-19 has made that collapse complete, with many hospitals closing for fear of the virus or lack of staff and personal protective equipment.”

Further, the Doctor emphasizes that“Many people will die of this virus, but we fear that many others will also die from what should have been preventable deaths because healthcare is simply not available,” 

Event though several restrictions on travelling are imposed to mitigate the infection spread, Yemeni people are more concerned about facing hunger deaths by staying at home.

As a global community, what is our contribution towards saving a collapsing nation?

By Jumana Jabeer.

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