Starvation Tactics in YemenSince 2014, the conflict in Yemen has raged without an end in sight. In a November 2021 article, the World Bank estimates that Yemen’s poverty rate rose from approximately half of the population pre-conflict to as much as 78% because of the conflict. Although a Saudi-led coalition offensive largely defines the conflict, human rights abuses are apparent on both sides and by all parties. Starvation tactics in Yemen stand as one of the most malicious violations, bringing a wave of shock to the international community.

Background of the Conflict

The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthis, a Shia Muslim minority in Yemen, captured the major city in Yemen’s northern province and began moving southward. The rebellion was strategically timed as the Houthis have fought several rebellions against Yemen’s government over the years but chose to attack this time because of a new sitting president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Unfortunately for Hadi, the country initially supported the rebels, who overran and seized the capital city of Sanaa in 2014.

The Houthis are Shia Muslims and have a close affiliation with Iran, the Middle East’s Shia bastion. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia largely adheres to Sunni Islam and views Shia power as a threat. Therefore, the Houthi rebellion in Yemen alarmed Saudi Arabia, prompting “Saudi Arabia and eight other mostly Sunni Arab states” to launch an air campaign in 2015 to end the rebellion and reinstate Hadi’s government. The United States, United Kingdom and France provided “logistical and intelligence support” for the air campaign.

Human Rights Consequences

The conflict in Yemen has come at a steep cost to human life. As of December 2021, Yemen notes nearly a quarter of a million deaths and 4 million displacements. Furthermore, about 24 million Yemeni people require humanitarian aid. Due to these dire statistics, many world organizations deem the situation in Yemen the “worst humanitarian crisis” in the world.

One of the most concerning developments to arise out of the conflict in Yemen is the use of starvation tactics. Human rights groups documenting starvation tactics in Yemen show that both sides use such tactics “as a weapon of war.” The Mwatana Organization for Human Rights and Global Rights Compliance, both human rights organizations, have records of Saudi airstrikes destroying water facilities and fishing vessels as well as farms.

In a report, the groups indicate that the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of air and seaports has slowed the flow of food into Yemen. Their reports also detail Houthi rebels denying civilians aid, which includes food. Specifically, the report says that “restrictions were so severe that they forced the World Food Program (WFP) to suspend its operations in 2019 and again in 2020.” The report also states that the rebels’ use of landmines prevents farmers from using their land productively.

The humanitarian cost of the starvation tactics in Yemen is astounding. In September 2021, in a plea for urgent funding from the international community, the United Nations warned that 16 million people in Yemen may face starvation. According to Henrietta Fore, the head of UNICEF, more than 11 million children in Yemen need humanitarian aid to survive and close to 400,000 children enduring “severe acute malnutrition are at imminent risk of death.”

Humanitarian Aid

Donors cut funding to the World Food Programme (WFP) in 2020, citing aid obstruction as their concerns. As a consequence, in April 2020, the WFP had to halve “food aid to every other month in parts of Yemen” under the control of the Houthis. However, donors took heed to U.N. warnings about the famine, and in June 2021, the WFP resumed monthly distributions to millions around Yemen. Since then, the WFP has taken extensive efforts to combat the effects of starvation tactics in Yemen.

The WFP says that despite barriers to access, it manages to provide humanitarian aid “to the vast majority of vulnerable people in the country.” The WFP is providing daily snacks to more than 1.5 million Yemeni students and nutritional support to more than 3 million “pregnant and nursing women” as well as children younger than 5. The WFP also provides food aid through food rations or cash assistance to purchase food.

Despite significant suffering in Yemen, there is no shortage of organizations eager to provide aid. With enough advocacy and aid, there lies a possibility to end starvation tactics in Yemen and bring an end to the conflict overall.

– Richard J. Vieira
Photo: Flickr

Women in Yemen
Yemen’s ongoing conflict has driven the nation progressively nearer to socioeconomic disintegration since it erupted in 2015. Inflationary pressures have put the cost of fundamental needs beyond reach for the majority of people. The conflict in Yemen continues to significantly damage the position of women, resulting in a near-elimination of their safety protocols and increased their susceptibility to assault and exploitation. Yemen has a deeply ingrained patriarchy that severely limits the quality of life for women. Yemeni women face some of the world’s most heinous despotism and are fighting for their rights in three key areas: workplace possibilities, gender discrimination and political underrepresentation.

Fight for Rights in the Workplace

According to Article 40 of Yemen’s Personal Status Law, a woman cannot acquire employment in the same capacity as a male and “the work must have been agreed by her husband.” The most recent figure from 2019 was the 6.04% employment rate for women in Yemen. In comparison, the global average in 2019 was 51.96%, based on 181 nations.

Additionally, there is no legislation prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace, nor are there legal sanctions or civil recourse for workplace sexual misconduct. Because of the unspoken societal consensus that females are often at fault, women are less likely to submit a sexual misconduct complaint due to a concern that they will receive accusations of soliciting men’s attention. Women in Yemen have to fight for rights in the workplace because no law requiring equivalent compensation for the labor of equivalent merit exists.

USAID promotes women’s financial freedom in Yemen by providing career development, allocation and guidance to help women boost competitive engagement in the workforce. Additionally, technological guidance and strategic initiatives aid females in obtaining investment and job options, hence improving take-home pay. In 2020 alone, USAID helped more than 1,300 Yemeni women.

The Fight Against Gender Discrimination

Yemen sees women as secondary. Because of that, many women in Yemen cannot make important family decisions. In Yemen, there is no particular statute regarding spousal abuse. Females do not disclose abuse instances because they are afraid of arrest or abuse.

According to Articles 51-72 of Yemen’s Personal Status Law, men can obtain a divorce with significantly fewer limitations than women. Men’s rights to the guardianship of kids exceed that of women in the event of divorce.

According to UNICEF, 80% of the nation is reliant on relief aid. Therefore, poor Yemeni households frequently have to marry young in an attempt to nourish the youth and obtain bare necessities. Fathers sell their daughters into marriage and consequently, abruptly end their adolescence. This is a basic breach of human freedoms. In 2020, USAID funded initiatives aimed at avoiding forced early-aged marriages by equipping more than 6,000 girls with essential competencies such as “problem-solving and decision-making.”

The Fight for Women’s Rights in the Political Arena

In the 2011 protest, women were key participants and continued to be throughout the subsequent domestic discourse. When the uprisings’ effect dissolved, the women ultimately experienced abandonment and could not promote their beliefs. Yemen does not have a policy that safeguards women. Instead, Yemeni legislation disparages them if they undermine any political organization.

Women in Yemen have virtually no authority to sway legislation in order to strengthen their roles. They do not have widespread popular political support due to the fact that a disproportionate number of men participate in politics. The men exclude women who promote or show any political interest.

U.N. Women works in Yemen to increase women’s civic involvement. It firmly supports encouraging engagement in community affairs and political judgment. U.N. Women values the significance of equitable participation of both sexes in diplomatic discussions and crisis settlement.

Because of the importance of increasing political dialogue for women in Yemen, it established the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security platform. It advocates for the inclusion of women in all political conversations.

Despite the marginalization of Yemeni girls and women, they are receiving assistance from major global organizations. These efforts have been essential in effectively working to promote women’s rights in Yemen.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

child-poverty-in-yemenYemen is currently in the middle of the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Yemen has been in conflict since 2015, a situation that has devastated its economy. COVID-19 also hit Yemen’s economy hard due to a fall in global prices, weak public infrastructure and a limited ability to cope with extreme climate events. Yemen’s death rate is currently five times the global average. Unfortunately, the crisis Yemen is experiencing most heavily impacts children and puts millions of kids at risk of starvation. Here is more information on child poverty in Yemen.

The Crisis in Yemen

There is an immense tragedy occurring in Yemen. Estimates have determined that Yemen’s overall poverty rate is 80% and the war has already set back the country’s development by 25 years. In addition to facing the enormous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yemen continues to battle mass outbreaks of preventable diseases such as cholera, diptheria, measles and dengue fever. On top of fighting these diseases, the conflict in Yemen is actively occurring. The war has resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of a million people from its start in 2015 to mid-2021. Unfortunately, Yemen’s children are the most vulnerable members of society and this crisis has caused child poverty in Yemen to be a critical issue.

Starvation and Malnutrition

According to UNICEF, 11 million children in Yemen urgently need humanitarian assistance. Child poverty in Yemen is continuing to rise, and more than 2.3 million children could starve by the end of 2021. This represents an unprecedented hunger crisis. Of these 2.3 million, expectations have stated that 400,000 will face acute malnutrition and could die without urgent treatment. Additionally, 1.2 million pregnant and breastfeeding mothers may experience malnourishment by the end of 2021, meaning that over 1 million children will be born in hunger. Between 2015 and 2020, over 3,000 children have been killed as a result of the war. As a result of facing so much trauma and conflict, an astonishing half of the children in Yemen are struggling with depression.

Impact on Education

Beyond the fact that the pandemic and conflict in Yemen are impacting children’s basic needs such as food, education is also under threat. Before the pandemic, 2 million children were out of school and 3.7 million more were at risk of leaving school altogether. Pandemic closures increased the number of kids at risk to 8 million, and teachers are not receiving pay. At least 4.7 million children are in need of educational assistance. Schools lack funds, resources and adequate sanitation, especially for girls. According to UNICEF, Yemen now owes $70 million in stipends to teachers. In addition to the pandemic preventing attendance, the conflict has destroyed about 2,000 schools.

Finding Hope

The Yemenis are resilient and are searching for solutions despite all of the turmoil. Communities are rebuilding their own schools and providing these schools with essential resources. The vast majority of schools in Yemen have no electricity. This means that kids have no access to clean water and sanitation services. The Yemen Emergency Electricity Access Project is working to install solar energy systems in schools. Solar energy can provide sanitary resources to students and the community. It also improves children’s experience in the classroom by providing light and a comfortable environment. This project should help at least 1.3 million people. Meanwhile, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) put up nine solar microgrids to improve energy access.

In order to combat the mental health crisis in Yemen, social workers are providing mobile counseling. In 2018, UNFPA established six psychological support centers. Since then, these centers provided mobile psychological support to about 18,000 people, and the demand for these services is rising due to both the pandemic and continuing conflict.

Spreading the Word

The crisis in Yemen is vast and will take a united effort to address. One important factor in working to end this crisis is awareness. Social media posts, conversations and contacting U.S. government representatives are all methods to spread the word. While the U.S. did suggest a ceasefire in Yemen, this request will likely go unheeded if it does not take sufficient action to halt military support to the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition. The resilience of the Yemenis and help from the rest of the world can fight child poverty in Yemen and aid in the overarching crisis.

– Jacqueline Zembek
Photo: Flickr

Temporary Protected Status for YemenOn July 6, 2021, the Biden administration announced the extension of a program to support Yemeni individuals currently living in the U.S. as Yemen grapples with civil war and the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world. Even before the conflict, Yemen was the most impoverished nation in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), with a poverty rate of more than 50%. Today, more than three-quarters of Yemen grapples with poverty. The Biden administration has extended the Temporary Protected Status for Yemen nationals in the United States due to deteriorating conditions in Yemen.

The Situation in Yemen

Since the civil rights crisis began, Yemen’s economy has unarguably collapsed. The conditions exacerbated citizens’ vulnerabilities and destroyed critical infrastructure, while famine-level food insecurity ravaged the nation. The political crisis coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic led to Yemenis living in increased poverty.

The World Bank notes that “more than 40% of Yemeni households that find it difficult to buy even the minimum amount of food may have also lost their primary source of income.” Additionally, 19.9 million citizens live without access to sufficient healthcare services. Proper healthcare is more crucial than ever considering the impact of COVID-19 and Yemen’s recent outbreaks of “cholera, diphtheria, measles and dengue fever.” Experts argue that rebuilding Yemen’s economy and mending “Yemen’s social fabric” can only happen with an “eventual political reconciliation.”

Temporary Protected Status

Congress created the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the Immigration Act of 1990, where it provides “temporary immigration status” to nationals of countries grappling with extraordinary conditions, such as ongoing armed conflict and violence. Also, the Secretary of Homeland Security may grant TPS to a country suffering an ongoing environmental disaster or epidemic.

Once granting an individual TPS, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot detain them based on their immigration status. TPS also does not impact an application for asylum or any other immigration benefits. Syria, El Salvador, Haiti and South Sudan are currently designated for TPS in addition to Yemen and several other countries. In the distant past, the U.S. granted TPS to countries like Lebanon, Kuwait and Rwanda.

The decision to extend the TPS of Yemeni nationals in the U.S. allows them to stay in the country without fear of deportation. Undoubtedly, the collapse of healthcare systems, sanitation and education services in Yemen bears influence on the decision. Furthermore, an unstable political transition compounded the need for this decision.

Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced the extended Temporary Protected Status for Yemen after consulting with interagency partners. Mayorkas stated that the U.S. has “decided to extend and re-designate Yemen for Temporary Protected Status. We will continue to protect and offer their individuals a place of residency temporarily in the United States.”

US Role in the Yemen Crisis

In February 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an end to U.S. support for offensive operations in the Yemen war, including relevant arms sales. The move contrasts the positions of Presidents Obama and Trump. President Trump backed arms deals with the Saudi coalition, citing benefits for the U.S. economy even though the weapons led to the harm of civilians. However, the outflow of arms to the Middle East initially started under the Obama administration.

Furthermore, on March 1, 2021, Secretary Blinken announced $191 million in humanitarian assistance to Yemen, making the U.S. one of the largest donors for relief to Yemen. To promote more aid, Blinken urged parties at the virtual 2021 High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. by helping to “end the conflict in Yemen.” The Biden administration’s action to extend Temporary Protected Status for Yemen “will allow approximately 1,700 Yemenis to keep their status through 2023” and will also enable another 480 Yemenis to apply.

Overall, the TPS extension to Yemenis in the U.S. shows the United States’ commitment to safeguarding the well-being of vulnerable people whose lives would be at risk in their home countries.

– Alysha Mohamed

Photo: Flickr

Child Soldiers in YemenHuman rights groups are addressing the issue of child soldiers in Yemen. Houthi groups reportedly recruited and trained children for war beginning in 2014. Since then, hundreds of child soldiers in Yemen have died or experienced injuries.

Houthi Modus Operandi

Houthi groups utilize school and other educational facilities to train and recruit children as soldiers. Lectures at these facilities emphasize violence and Houthi ideology. Their purpose is to compel the children to join their fight and adopt Houthi ideas as their own. Once recruited, authorities assign the children various tasks, ranging from guard duty to direct armed conflict. Those who do not perform well or attempt to defy the Houthi face various forms of punishment including beatings, food deprivation and even sexual assault.

Protests from Concerned Groups

Humanitarian groups such as the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and the SAM for Rights and Liberties denounced the Houthi child recruitment drive and called on the Houthi to cease it. The groups argue that the very act of conscripting child soldiers in Yemen violates the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute that forbids this war crime. They urge the United Nations Security Council to refer the Houthi’s actions to the International Criminal Court. The humanitarian groups want a U.N. special representative to visit Yemen and further assess the situation.

The CRUCSY Program

In September 2018, the special United Nations agency known as the International Labor Organization (ILO) initiated a program known as Countering the Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Yemen (CRUCSY). The ILO developed this program in conjunction with the United States Department of State.

The CRUCSY program has multiple aims. It strives to provide a solution to the immediate problem of child soldiers in Yemen by addressing its underlying root causes. Furthermore, it hopes to prevent this situation from reoccurring. The program helps reintegrate child victims back into Yemen’s various governorates so that children can lead more stable and peaceful lives. The ILO also set up training facilities and services for the children. Additionally, the ILO teaches the older, legal-aged children marketable vocational skills to help them find employment.

As of February 21, 2021, the ILO CRUCSY program created three youth-friendly reintegration spaces and four youth clubs. Moreover, the program coordinated with local communities to provide training guides for community leaders. Lastly, the program has been offering counseling, support and vocational skills training for child soldiers in Yemen.

UN Action

The United Nations has also made progress in helping child soldiers in Yemen and rehabilitating them. From 2014 to 2020, the Office of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG CAAC) communicated and coordinated with the Yemeni government. It also helped various humanitarian coalitions and the Houthis address the issue of child soldier recruitment.

In addition, the SRSG CAAC implemented action plans to establish child protection units, end violations against international laws protecting children and prevent violations altogether. The office’s efforts led to the signing of a handover protocol in April 2020, resulting in the release of 68 child soldiers in Yemen. As of March and May 2021, child protection workshops and training efforts have continued.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Flickr

Gaming For a Cause, Poverty-Based Simulation Games Raise AwarenessSimulation-based games have introduced a new realm of possibilities for video game creators, from surgeon simulators to first-person shooting programs. Some creators have decided to use this trend to garner empathy and attention for the important issue of global poverty. Despite 10% of the world living in extreme poverty, sympathy can be difficult for some to experience when they are not aware of the circumstances those living in extreme poverty face day-to-day. As such, simulation games are key to raising awareness and catalyzing change. Some creators have begun to take on the gut-wrenching task of creating poverty-based simulation games meant to simulate the experience of living in extreme poverty.

SPENT

“It’s just stuff. Until you don’t have it.” The ominous slogan on the beginning page of SPENT perfectly encapsulates the accidental ungratefulness that so many people who live comfortably feel. SPENT spotlights this luckiness for being able to go to a healthcare clinic or afford the rent by forcing players to experience extreme poverty. SPENT gives players $1,000 and 30 days to survive while making necessary purchases such as healthcare and rent. Although this sounds simple, it is anything but. Players must turn down concerts, miss bill deadlines and rely on friends for money. This sheds light on the physical and emotional toll that poverty has on people and how necessary donations are to their well-being.

This poverty-based game was a partnership project between McKinney Advertising Agencies and the Urban Ministries of Durham. SPENT has been played more than four million times in more than 218 countries. At the end of the game, a pop-up reminds players that the hardships they faced in the game are a reality for millions, prompting them to donate through the site. In its first 10 months, SPENT raised $45,000 from 25,000 new donors.

Survive125

Survive125 is a poverty-based game centered around an impoverished woman, Divya Patel, who lives in India with her four children and a daily salary of $1.25. Players control her life by making impossible decisions such as, “Should you send your teenage daughter to work at a factory (whose potential employer might be a sex trafficker) in order to earn more money?” or, “Should you pull your son out of school every three days in order to get the nearest clean water, which is four hours away?”

Millions of people living in extreme poverty face these questions every day. Each time players answer a question, they lose or gain money and points. The goal is to survive 30 days without running out of money or points. Live 58, a nonprofit organization working to end global poverty, developed this simulation. Live 58 is comprised of 10 charities that work to end global poverty by raising awareness through projects such as the game Survive125. While Survive125 doesn’t have a donation component or statistics, it is making an impact by raising awareness and giving people the opportunity to walk a mile in Divya Patel’s shoes.

This War of Mine

This War of Mine may be a war game, but it starkly differs from its counterparts in one main aspect: the perspective. While most war games such as Call of Duty focus on a heavily militant and violent storyline from the point of view of a soldier, This War of Mine revolves around impoverished civilians in war-torn countries fighting to survive. This poverty-based game simulates an all too common situation in which war impacts innocent children and citizens. Characters search for food, shelter, medical help and safety from bombs, introducing a new angle not seen in war games.

Another interesting take in this game is the idea of mood as a surviving factor; if a character becomes depressed, their work slows, and they suffer negative effects. This factor of depression is prominent in stressful environments such as in a country impacted by war but is often overlooked in mental health care.

Along with raising awareness, the creators of the game, 11 Bit Studios, partnered with War Child, a British organization that helps children in areas of conflict, to raise donations. Through this partnership, they created downloadable content by utilizing the art of graffiti artists who created war-themed artwork. All of the proceeds from the third of these poverty-based simulation games went directly to War Child, ultimately adding up to $500,000 as of 2018. The donation went toward war-torn countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen. The proceeds support different projects, notably temporary learning centers, a child helpline and a division of War Child that works specifically with gamers.

Fighting to End Extreme Poverty

In a world where technology replaces human connection, games that remind people of empathy can bridge the gap created by a technological world. New methods, like poverty-based simulation games, appeal to large demographics and rekindle the spirit of generosity in a unique way.

– Mariam Abaza
Photo: Flickr

Thirlwall supports UNICEFLittle Mix singer Jade Thirlwall supports UNICEF in its efforts to address the current crisis in Yemen. Thirlwall’s grandfather is from Yemen. Look to the Stars reports that Thirlwall is honoring her Yemeni heritage by learning about and raising awareness of the country’s war-generated and pandemic-induced challenges. According to UNICEF, Yemen is experiencing the world’s most severe humanitarian crisis. Prolonged war, a failing economy and the decline of various national systems have resulted in 70% of citizens, including 11.3 million children, requiring aid. The country is also nearing famine. As of June 2021, nearly 400,000 children are severely malnourished and 2.3 million children suffer from acute malnutrition. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the crisis by putting more pressure on the struggling healthcare system. UNICEF is committed to giving Yemeni people the help they need.

Interview with Somaya

On March 25, 2021, Thirlwall did a video interview with 17-year-old Somaya from Yemen. Somaya discussed her life as a young person born and raised in Sana’a, Yemen’s largest city. However, when the war began, Somaya’s family moved toward safety to the temporary capital of Yemen, Aden. Thirwall reminisced about how her grandfather used to cook Yemeni food and talk about life in Yemen. When Thirwall lost her grandfather at 13, she also lost touch with her Yemeni heritage, which her grandfather had always encouraged her to honor.

Education in Yemen

During the interview, Thirlwall asked Somaya about her education. Somaya replied, “I’m lucky to have the opportunity to go to school, but unfortunately, other girls don’t.” UNICEF reports that the main barrier to education for children in Yemen is scarce funding for teacher salaries. For more than two years, Yemen could not pay nearly 75% of public school teachers in about half of Yemen’s governorates. This significantly impacted the education of 3.7 million children in those areas. However, through continuous advocacy, UNICEF has now raised $70 million to pay teachers and other school employees in Yemen in order for education to continue.

UNICEF Support

As part of the same interview, Thirlwall also spoke with Malak Shaher, an advocacy specialist for UNICEF in Yemen. Shaher tells Thirwall that nearly two-thirds of the country’s 30 million people are children. Furthermore, two-thirds of those children need humanitarian assistance in order to access schooling, healthcare and clean water. Shaher shared a story of a young girl who had to stop going to school for two years because of sanitation issues in her community. Thanks to UNICEF’s support, the girl’s community now has clean water, which has enabled her and other children to return to school. Thirwall stresses the need for access to education. It is “relentless” for children to miss out on schooling due to war, the pandemic and other obstacles, she says.

The humanitarian need in Yemen is significant, but thanks to the advocacy of celebrities like Thirwall raising awareness on the issue, more people are paying attention. UNICEF states that it needs $508.8 million to help Yemen recover in 2021. More than 70% of the funds are needed for water and sanitation, healthcare and food. As Thirlwall supports UNICEF in its efforts to address Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, others may be encouraged to do the same.

Jannique McDonald
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation in YemenFemale genital mutilation (FGM) is a procedure that is still being performed in parts of Yemen and is rooted in social concepts of femininity. Female genital mutilation is a practice that is inhumane and has many adverse side effects. In Yemen, 15% of women have been mutilated. However, humanitarian organizations are proactive in alleviating the tradition of female genital mutilation in Yemen by raising awareness.

Cultural Pressures for Women

The justification for female genital mutilation stems from a long-held social belief backed by gender inequality practices. The procedure intends to help maintain a woman’s clean, feminine and virtuous ways. The World Health Organization claims FGM is “associated with cultural ideals of femininity and modesty, which include the notion that girls are clean and beautiful after removal of body parts that are considered unclean, unfeminine and male.”

However, female genitalia mutilation has costly effects for women in both the short term and long term. It is excruciatingly painful in the short term, causing excessive bleeding and urinary problems. In the long term, women experience an increased risk of vaginal cysts, wound infections, menstrual issues, childbirth complications and reoccurring pain.

Although Yemen has outlawed female genital mutilation in medical facilities, it is a practice within homes. The woman of the family usually performs the act using a razor blade or scissors. This usually occurs a few days after a female is born, but records show that girls have undergone the procedure as old as 15. Unfortunately, since FGM is illegal in medical facilities, families cannot provide further care to the girls if it is necessary.

Finding Solutions for Female Genital Mutilation in Yemen

UNICEF estimates that 19% of females in Yemen have experienced female genital mutilation. However, the Yemen Demographic Mother and Child Health Survey of 1997 shows that 48% of Yemen’s population believes it should be against the law.

The resistance to outlaw this practice traces back to a lack of education for young girls. DVV International studies show that 60% of Yemen women are illiterate, while 70% of men know how to read and write.

It will take time and education to criminalize female genitalia mutilation in Yemen to enlighten the practice’s truths. Without a full grasp of the pain of female genitalia mutilation, women cannot understand why the procedure is criminal. By utilizing the community and educational tools, knowledge about female genitalia mutilation will increase and awareness spread.

Raising Awareness for Female Genital Mutilation in Yemen

As said by Moroccan human rights activist Khadija Ryadi on the opposition to outlaw FGM, “This is because these laws require that society prepares for them. Society cannot prepare automatically, as these are the responsibilities of governments and civil organizations. Governments must work harder to change the attitudes, customs, and the inequality of women.”

However, there is a growing awareness of the practice in Yemen. Many women are advocating for laws and regulations to end female genital mutilation. However, there are no other bills within Yemen’s republic that protect women from gender-based violence or child marriage. A 2020 report by 28 Too Many found that since the onset of civil war in 2015, Yemen has seen a 63% rise in violence against women. However, because of the lack of government protection, the women of Yemen are vulnerable.

Looking Ahead

The World Health Organization has made February 6 Zero Tolerance Day for those affected by female genitalia mutilation. This showcases that more than 200 million women worldwide have seen the direct effects of female genital mutilation, thus bringing more attention to the issue. With growing knowledge and awareness around this act of abuse, there will be reform and change.

– Rachel Wolf
Photo: Flickr

Relief for YemenRelief for Yemen has long been a goal of humanitarian politicians and activists. A bipartisan letter, signed by four U.S. senators, urges the Biden administration to allocate more federal funding for aid to Yemen.

The Letter of Appeal

Two Republican senators and two Democratic senators signed a letter appealing for more U.S. aid to Yemen. On May 4, 2021, Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) signed the open letter together in an act of humanitarian bipartisanship. The senators voiced their concern about the international community failing to reach previously established relief goals “after a recent United Nations fundraising appeal for the war-torn country fell short.”

In March 2021, international donors raised $1.35 billion in humanitarian aid for Yemen, falling short of the United Nations’ target goal of $3.85 billion, the estimated amount required for a comprehensive humanitarian response. As one of the most powerful countries in the world, the U.S. pledged only $19 million, much less than Oxfam’s recommended $1.2 billion.

All the while, close to “50,000 people in Yemen are living in famine-like conditions” and the conflict threatens to plummet another five million people into similar conditions. The conflict itself has already claimed tens of thousands of civilian lives. The humanitarian crisis and poverty brought on by the conflict have compromised the food security of more than 20 million people, accounting for two-thirds of Yemen’s population. The United Nations warns that “400,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 could die from acute malnutrition” without swift humanitarian action.

Efforts to End the Crisis in Yemen

The open letter came around the same times as renewed calls for a ceasefire from the international community. Senator Murphy was in Yemen when the letter was released, joining Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy for Yemen, as well as diplomats from Europe, with the hopes of brokering a ceasefire between Houthi rebel factions and the Saudi-led military coalition. Participants in the meeting demand an end to war crimes actively committed by both sides. The Biden administration has backed away from weapons sales in an effort to mitigate the conditions. But, the conflict and subsequent crises continue, requiring increased aid to Yemen.

UNICEF and the UN Assist

One of the priorities of UNICEF’s efforts in Yemen is to treat cases of acute malnutrition in children and assist children whose lives have been overturned by the continuous military conflict. Efforts range from facilitating access to therapeutic foods and educating children about the dangers of explosives scattered throughout the country. UNICEF is also restoring damaged schools in an effort to develop secure spaces for children to continue learning.

At a time of resurgent violence coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign aid groups have stepped up relief measures in anticipation of increased demand for food. In one particular hotspot, within the Ma’rib Governorate, the intensification of military conflict has displaced at least 2,871 families. The U.N. Regional Coordination Team for Ma’rib aims to assist about 200,000 people in the area. Sanitation, nutrition and shelter remain top priories for these efforts.

Despite the scale of the crisis, international aid groups remain determined to provide relief. Senators, leaders and foreign diplomats are continuing efforts to broker a peace deal. The severity of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen requires broader support from the global community in order to upscale efforts and comprehensively provide aid to Yemen.

– Jack Thayer
Photo: Flickr

USAID Support to Yemen
USAID support to Yemen has been incredibly necessary for the past six years. As Yemen enters the sixth year of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, over 20 million people are on the brink of starvation. There are many factors causing this crisis to persist.

Religious Conflict

The rise of the Houthi movement, fueled by the Shiite rebellion to overthrow the Sunni government, began in 2014. Since then, the former Yemeni president not only joined the insurgence but also died at the hands of the rebels. From airstrikes that the Saudi government issued to the expansion of religious polarization, Yemen’s population remains in the middle of the turmoil.

Humanitarian Issues

Currently, 1.8 million children die each year on average primarily due to malnutrition. Before the start of the internal conflict, the economy was already on the decline. Now, most families lack access to basic necessities like food and vaccinations. The issue is not that these commodities are not physically available. Inflation has caused items such as drinking water or fruits and vegetables to no longer be affordable or accessible.

Still, in the early stages of development, the structural and financial state of Yemen has only worsened in the past six years. Though coalitions exist to help fight the rebellion and offer further support for Yemen, the Houthi continues to retaliate only continuing the warfare. This results in more than 17,500 innocent civilians either severely injured or deceased since the beginning of the war.

USAID Support to Yemen

The United States remains one of the largest donors of support for Yemen and provides help to over 8 million people each month. On March 1, 2021, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced almost $200 million in humanitarian aid for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. So far, the U.S. has donated approximately $3.4 billion in support of Yemen. While this includes funding towards the United Nations Food Program, the money also helps provide rehabilitation for the economy as well as communities across the country.

The crisis has left the general Yemeni public with dwindling medical support, food and water, and stay caught in the crossfire. With no end in sight, USAID support to Yemen is essential. Without help from the U.S., the statistics aforementioned could perhaps double over the next while. Moreover, although people may best know USAID for contributing financial support, it also works to move other donors into action. With continuous support each year, USAID is the main source of hope and support for not only Yemen but also other countries facing extreme poverty.

– Caroline Kratz
Photo: Flickr