Foreign Aid to Yemen
Yemen is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the U.N. The civil war has been going on since 2014 and the country is not facing another challenge due to the Russia-Ukraine War.

The Civil War and its Impact on the Yemeni People

Two main groups are controlling different parts of Yemen. The internationally recognized government (IRG) is controlling the south and east of the country, and the Houthi group is controlling the west of the country and its capital, Sana’a. The IRG is also supporting the Southern Transitional Council (STC). The situation caused around 377,000 casualties between 2015 and 2021. Although casualties slowed down in 2022 due to the ceasefire which took place between April and October 2022, Yemeni people are in need of humanitarian assistance. According to a U.N. report, more than 23.5 million people of Yemen’s 31.2 million population need humanitarian assistance.

Food insecurity, disruption of education, scarcity of health care facilities, severe drought and intense flooding are among many issues people are facing in Yemen. The issues require humanitarian assistance in relation to the problems.

Education

The U.N. Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that primary and secondary school attendance has fallen sharply since the beginning of the conflict, from 100% to 75% and from 50% to 28% in 2021, respectively. Girls often endure the most challenges due to a lack of education.

Health Care

In February 2021, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees stated that “Yemen cannot even afford to worry about the coronavirus” because of famine risk and other infectious diseases such as diphtheria and measles. The outbreak of cholera in Yemen in 2016 was also one of the worst in recent history. Moreover, only half of Yemen’s sanitary facilities were fully operating in 2021.

Food Security

Even before the current war, food insecurity was a problem. For the period from October to December 2022, the World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that 54% of the population of Yemen suffered from extreme food insecurity while 2.2 million children and 1.3 million pregnant and nursing women experienced acute malnutrition.

The WFP is also facing underfunding as it stood around $1 billion short of its $1.98 billion requirements for 2022. As a result, in both December 2021 and June 2022, the organization expressed that it has had to reduce the rations it provides.

The Russia-Ukraine War also deeply impacted Yemen’s food security, as the country used to import 40% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine.

Main Donors of Foreign Aid to Yemen

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a report on March 16, 2022, stating the countries’ foreign aid to Yemen pledges. The U.S. and the European Commission were the first two potential donors of foreign aid to Yemen in the previous year.

The U.S. pledged around $500,000 and donated more than $1 billion. Also, the European Commission pledged $173 million USD and donated €170 million.

The U.N. is appealing for large amounts for Yemen. The March 2022 appeal was the largest amount for Yemen since the conflict began, which was $4.3 billion. However, the U.N. could receive only 54% of the required funds at $2.3 billion.

In addition to the efforts on brokering for peace, the international community should also increase the amount of foreign aid to Yemen to respond to the world’s humanitarian crisis.

– Murathan Arslancan
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in Yemen
Since 2014, a multilateral civil war that has brought about a near-total socio-economic collapse has engulfed Yemen. The country has faced widespread famines due to the lack of necessary infrastructure and socio-political decay. In the absence of proper access to water, sanitation, hygiene services and food, millions have either died or faced issues like displacement. Without aid, the famine in Yemen could evolve into the worst in 100 years. Fortunately, USAID programs in Yemen have targeted the most pressing issues to combat the spread of disease and fund activities that promote stable governance.

Effects of the War

The problems in Yemen have led to approximately 150,000 deaths from the war alone, with additional deaths due to famine and inadequate access to basic necessities. Predictions have determined that by 2030, total deaths could reach 1.3 million. Overall, approximately 23.4 million people — including 13 million children — are in need of assistance. Among these are 17.8 million people who lack access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene services.

In 2022, the U.S. pledged $431 million to Yemen in humanitarian assistance – bringing the total U.S. contribution to Yemen to $1 billion. A large portion of this contribution aims to promote governmental stability, which is essential to all Yemeni citizens’ long-term prosperity.

Disease

Although armed conflict and access to food and water are the most discussed issues, a related problem is the ease of transmission of diseases among the most vulnerable within Yemen. The COVID-19 pandemic only worsened public health concerns. While the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Program (COVAX) committed 4.2 million vaccine doses to Yemen, as of August 2022, less than 3% of the population received two doses.

Fortunately, there has been some level of intervention. USAID programs in Yemen have provided humanitarian assistance to vulnerable Yemenis through the department of Foreign Disaster Assistance and Food for Peace, which focuses on providing food assistance, medical treatment, support for children, emergency services for women, hygiene kits and water treatment supplies. Most of this assistance aims to limit the spread of disease and combat the problem posed by famine.

Laying Sturdier Foundations: Helping Yemen, Help Itself

Fundamentally, although humanitarian assistance in dollars and additional food and water is of the utmost importance to prevent the famine and death total from escalating, it will not bring about tangible and necessary forms of change required to help the people of Yemen in the long term. Unless Yemen achieves absolute institutional and governmental level stability, thousands, if not millions, of Yemenis will perish. As a result, USAID programs in Yemen have taken more proactive measures to help Yemen through developmental aid. Such activities aim to not only help those in need but “strengthen the ability of Yemeni institutions to meet citizens’ needs and build a stronger foundation for durable peace and prosperity,” USAID reported on its website.

– Christopher Maddocks
Photo: Flickr

Yemen’s Lasting Crisis
Few modern conflicts have been as destructive or long-lasting as Yemen’s. In 2014, Houthi rebels called for the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and seized the capital, Sanaa, proclaiming a new government and attacking regions still loyal to Saleh’s regime. The conflict, protracted by mutual suspicion, involvement by Iran and Saudi Arabia and grotesque human rights violations enters its eighth year with no long-term solutions in sight. More than three-quarters of the population lives in poverty, with high levels of disease and 4 million Yemenis requiring humanitarian assistance. The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, David Gressly, emphasized that the country’s ongoing crisis is something the whole world must “urgently address.”

Troubles and Truces

Although significant, temporary ceasefires brokered by both sides have only made a conclusive deal more elusive. Diplomacy regarding Yemen’s lasting crisis has focused on containment, not lasting solutions, with on-and-off truces being agreed upon since 2016. In 2018, an agreement between the government and the Houthis ended hostilities in the large cities of Sanaa, Hodeidah and Taiz, but broke down after the Houthis failed to live up to other agreements. Houthi rebels failed to renew a six-month truce signed in April 2022, causing fears of further violence.

This should not detract from the importance of the truces in preventing further bloodshed. The most recent ceasefire decreased violence by 60%, allowing nearly 30,000 Yemenis to receive urgent medical care. U.N.-backed efforts in 2018 achieved a two-month truce that averted a major conflict in Yemen’s third-largest city. Although temporary and worrying for Yemen’s long-term stability, these “confidence building” solutions keep both sides open to more lasting discussions.

Poverty in Yemen

Unfortunately, this type of diplomacy leaves much to be desired, with little being done for actual conflict resolution. As Yemen’s civil war continues to drag on, those most at risk are people living under the constant threat of renewed violence. Almost a fifth of the country lives in extreme poverty, and huge swathes of the population do not have access to food or clean water. With the Houthis and the Yemeni government more focused on each other than the people of Yemen, little hope of institutional aid exists.

In this context, it is essential to acknowledge the unsung work of the many extra-governmental organizations providing aid in Yemen. The Red Cross gave more than 6 million Yemenis access to potable water, while more than a million benefited from financial or food assistance in 2021. Operating out of four cities, The Red Cross adapted itself to the multifaceted challenges of the conflict, providing medical consultations, livestock vaccinations and assistance to detainees. The U.N. currently provides humanitarian assistance to more than 10 million Yemenis.

Beyond day-to-day services, the U.N. has taken center stage in dealing with Yemen’s lasting crisis. Beginning in 2012, the U.N. created the Development Assistance Framework to improve access to social services and government management. Additionally, both the U.N. special envoy to Yemen and Secretary-General António Guterres called for the Houthi rebels to renew the April truce, to no avail.

The Road Ahead

Yemen’s lasting crisis represents a failure of the international community to decisively end one of the longest and bloodiest conflicts of the 21st century. However, this does not take away from the heroic work of the many individuals and groups assisting the Yemeni people. The breakdown of truce negotiations in October is justifiably a cause for alarm and necessitates a powerful response from international actors. In the meantime, acknowledging and promoting the toil of those looking to improve day-to-day conditions in Yemen will have to suffice.

– Samuel Bowles
Photo: Flickr

Two-Month Truce Extension
Warring factions announced a two-month truce extension in Yemen to a ceasefire agreement. The previous peace agreement expired on August 2, 2022. This is now the longest period of non-conflict during the seven-year war between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and rebel Houthi forces. However, mistrust between the two sides runs deep. The Saudi coalition and the Houthi rebels are both accused of war crimes that violate international law.

Yemeni civilians in extreme poverty suffer the most from this violence. The extent of civilian causalities is severe. Conservative estimates from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) claim that Saudi-led airstrikes killed more than 12,600 confirmed noncombatants. The U.N. Development Program estimates that almost 60% of deaths during the conflict come from a lack of food and water, as well as extremely limited health care services.

Humanitarian Concerns

Yemen continues to experience one of the worst humanitarian crises in recent history. Basic government services are not available due to the circumstances of war and around 80% of the population needs support. The price of petrol and food skyrocketed as a result of rising global prices. While a temporary truce is in place, food insecurity and disease susceptibility continue to plague Yemeni civil society.

De-facto blockades limiting the freedom of movement exacerbate humanitarian concerns. Saudi Arabia blocked the flow of resources into the capital Sanaa, which Houthi forces controlled. Access to roads connecting the rest of the country, as well as the contested region of Taiz, is limited, further intensifying the struggle for food security.

These issues remained divisive during previous periods of peace. Houthi leaders accuse the Saudi coalition of not delivering the agreed number of petrol shipments into the Hodeidah port. However, the Saudi coalition blames the Houthis for not reopening roads in the Taiz region.

Prospects for Peace

While the two-month truce extension in Yemen puts a bandage over the bleeding, there must be an international effort to bring sustainable peace to Yemen. Previous international efforts to end the conflict in Yemen failed to bring sustainable peace. The 2018 Stockholm Agreement prevented a battle for the port city of Hodeidah but fell short of creating a joint committee to de-escalate violence in Taiz.

With the announcement of a peace extension, the United States reopened the sale of weapons to the Saudi coalition. The Biden Administration previously halted the sale of U.S. manufactured military support for the aerial bombardment of Yemen. However, Washington approved a $3.5 billion sale of advanced Patriot ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia and a $2.24 billion Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system for the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

While the Biden Administration claims these deals are for defensive purposes only, the stockpiling of weapons by Riyadh during periods of non-conflict does not fare well for sustainable peace. These deals only deepen distrust between the warring sides.

Outside Interference Exacerbates War in Yemen

Different neighboring countries are also prolonging the conflict in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Iran inserted themselves into the war. The military capacity of these countries amplifies the scale of human causalities. Before the recent truce agreements, the Saudi coalition’s indiscriminate aerial campaign devastated Yemen’s infrastructure and killed thousands of civilians.

Iran is a known backer of the Houthi rebels. While experts claim that Tehran’s influence over Houthi leadership is exaggerated, there is certainly communication and collaboration between leadership circles that share similar geopolitical ambitions. Yemen is now the site of Iran and the Gulf’s contest for authority in the Middle East.

An International Commitment to Sustainable Peace is Necessary for a Resolution in Yemen

The two-month truce extension in Yemen announced on August 2, 2022 delays Yemen’s suffering for the immediate future. However, blockades and limitations on movement, as well as high gas and food prices, exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in the country. There needs to be a sustainable peace resolution to begin rebuilding Yemen and address the pressing issues of mass poverty and hunger.

Previous international efforts to bring peace to Yemen failed to make an impact on the ground. Washington’s recommitment to weapon sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE is harmful to negotiations. World leaders must reconvene on the conflict in Yemen and truly commit to a resolution that will bring sustainable peace.

– Samson Heyer
Photo: Flickr

Truce in Yemen
After more than seven years of war and what the United Nations described as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” a truce in Yemen offered respite to the millions affected by the conflict in April.

Yemen’s Civil War and its Effects

The roots of Yemen’s civil war extend back to 2012 when Yemen’s president stepped down due to the Arab Spring. The former president and his supporters joined forces with the Houthi rebels, a Shiite Muslim resistance group supported by Iran. The Houthi rebels attacked the Yemeni government in 2014, seizing Yemen’s capital. As a result of the Houthi’s assault, the new president fled to Saudi Arabia and a Saudi-led collation began military operations against the Houthi rebels. Both the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition have continued to attack each other for the past seven years and attempts by the United States and the U.N. to facilitate a diplomatic resolution to the conflict have proven largely unsuccessful.

The civil war in Yemen has had severe consequences for the Yemeni people. In 2021, the U.N. estimated that the death toll of Yemen’s civil war was approaching 377,000. The U.N. estimated that 60% of the deaths were the result of indirect effects of the war, such as lack of access to water, food or medical resources. The U.N. estimated that 70% of those who had died as a result of the conflict were children. In 2021, U.N. approximations showed that one Yemeni child died every nine minutes because of the war.

In addition to killing the Yemeni people, Yemen’s war has forced millions into extreme poverty and led to increased malnutrition. Due to the war, 15.6 million Yemeni people have fallen into extreme poverty and the number of malnourished people has more than doubled. The U.N. estimated that the war can cause an additional 8.6 million Yemeni people to become malnourished, including 1.6 million children by 2030.

Yemen’s Truce

After almost eight years of violence, on April 1, the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels signed on to a U.N.-brokered truce, that went into effect on April 2. The truce included an agreement to cease offensive military operations, an end to the Houthi blockade of fuel ships and the reopening of the government-controlled commercial airport in Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a. While the original truce was to expire on June 2, the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels agreed to extend the truce an additional two months until August 2.

As of July, the truce has resulted in more than a dozen commercial flights departing from the Sana’a commercial airport and more than 20 fuel ships entering Yemen’s Hudaydah port. Before the implementation of the truce in Yemen, the Yemeni government had not allowed commercial flights from the Sana’a airport for nearly six years.

In addition to reopening Hudaydah port to fuel shipments and reopening Sana’a airport to commercial flights, the truce has helped reduce violence between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels. By the end of April, the U.N. reported that airstrikes and drone and missile attacks had come to a complete halt. Before the treaty, the Saudi-led coalition engaged in more than 40 airstrikes a week on average and the Houthi rebels engaged in an average of four drone and missile strikes a week. Alongside the reduction in violence, the U.N. report on the first two months of the treaty found that those two months had the lowest fatality levels in Yemen since 2015. Fatalities due to civilian targeting had decreased by 50%.

Looking Ahead

Despite the success of the truce in Yemen, its implementation has met some challenges. The truce included an agreement to reopen streets in the Houthi-controlled city, Taiz, a goal that the warring parties have made little progress toward. Both sides have reported violations of the agreement to cease offensive military operations. Even taking the roadblocks into account, this truce represents an unprecedented step toward peace for Yemen.

Anna Inghram
Photo: Flickr

Hospitals Empower Women Amid ConflictAmid ongoing crises around the world, hospitals help women deliver babies and maintain good reproductive and sexual health. Supporting hospitals in conflict-ridden countries empowers women and can drastically reduce maternal mortality rates. In Afghanistan, maternal mortality rates have reduced by more than 50% in the past 20 years due to advancements in public health infrastructure. Hospitals empower women amid conflict by providing lifesaving support to new mothers and women of all ages.

Conflict-Ridden Areas

Hospitals and clinics in conflict zones save lives every day, in areas ranging from maternal care to helping the sick and wounded. When conflict strikes, though, medical care facilities experience difficulties procuring medicine, equipment and supplies. The hospitals and clinics may also struggle to maintain a steady supply of fuel and heating. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) often help hospitals and clinics in conflict-ridden areas obtain supplies.

In 2021, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) provided two hospitals in Afghanistan with emergency kits containing medicine and equipment to support the “reproductive, maternal and newborn health needs” of more than 300,000 people. In combination with NGO efforts, governmental investments in hospitals and other public health infrastructure are necessary to ensure adequate medical care in conflict zones, especially for women. Well-funded hospitals empower women amid conflict by safeguarding their reproductive health and ensuring safe deliveries.

Health Care for Women

Conflict zones make it difficult for women, children and newborns to access health care. For example, the war in Yemen has prevented many women and children with health emergencies from accessing medical facilities. Limited access to medical care for the Yemeni people has led to an increase in deaths, leaving pregnant women, newborns and children the most vulnerable.

Developing countries are unlikely to have enough fully functioning hospitals to support everyone’s medical needs, especially in times of conflict. Many patients in conflict zones must travel through dangerous sites to receive medical attention from a hospital. Such endeavors are particularly dangerous for pregnant women and women traveling with young children. High-functioning, accessible hospitals are highly beneficial to public health and safety in times of conflict, especially for women and newborns.

Improving Health Care in Conflict Zones

Improvements to health care in conflict zones may involve public and private coordination, addressing context-specific needs and developing sustainable responses to medical emergencies. Public and private coordination efforts may include governmental bodies, humanitarian organizations and other global public health actors including the World Health Organization.

When public and private actors collaborate, the efforts can provide optimized health care to those in need. Context-specific health care initiatives tailor medical care and responses to the most common or urgent needs of a community. Such initiatives involve speaking with local actors and communities to gauge their medical needs. States can improve health care sustainability in conflict zones by improving existing health systems, securing funding and prioritizing the treatment of chronic illnesses.

Robust medical systems are necessary to promote health, safety and peace in conflict-ridden areas. Access to health care is particularly important for pregnant women and newborns as these are highly vulnerable groups in conflict zones. Hospitals empower women amid conflict by providing access to maternal and reproductive health care, which saves lives and ensures safe pregnancies.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

FTO Designations
Recently, the usefulness of implementing foreign terrorist organization designations (hereafter, FTO designations) has become contested at the highest levels of the United States government. This conflicted stance is evident in the State Department’s 2021 FTO designation of Yemen’s Ansar Allah (aka, Houthis) which it subsequently revoked only a month later.

Furthermore, the former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper commented on FTO designations describing them as “symbolic,” elaborating that he could not “think of a case where somehow that [designation] facilitated our ability to track them better.” What is not undergoing debate in FTO designations is their respective impact on humanitarian aid. FTO designations often have the unintended consequence of obstructing the flow of humanitarian aid getting to the people who need it the most.

How FTO Designations Hamper Humanitarian Aid: Mozambique

On March 11, 2021, the State Department designated ASWJ or al-Shabaab (aka, ISIS in Mozambique) as an FTO in consideration of the ongoing widespread violence the group is responsible for in Cabo Delgado province. After this FTO designation, humanitarian aid workers ran into a myriad of new problems with legal, physical and logistical complications. As for the legal ramifications of FTO designations, humanitarian workers can experience long wait times in obtaining their visas for travel. At times, visa delays can take months and can prevent these aid workers who otherwise would be helping out on the ground from providing relief.

As for physical and logistical problems, FTO designations impede communications between humanitarian aid workers and armed groups. This lack of communication between humanitarian aid organizations, Mozambican forces, private military contractors and ASWJ places humanitarian aid workers in more danger. Restricting communications leaves uncertainty with armed groups who may mistakenly identify and attack aid workers seeking safe passage for their personnel and humanitarian supplies.

Although communications between humanitarian organizations and FTO designated groups are not grounds for FTO designation, the “knowing standard” puts relief organizations at high risk of being in the State Department’s crosshairs by mistake. In practice, the risk inherent to the “knowing standard” is that it requires humanitarian organizations to administer dangerous vetting procedures. Armed groups on the ground could interpret the vetting procedures as an indication that these humanitarian organizations are working on behalf of governments the FTO designated groups find hostile.

FTO Designation on the Yemeni Houthis: Revisited

On January 11, 2021, the outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the Houthis as an FTO. However, the State Department revoked this designation shortly after Pompeo left.  Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken advocated removing the FTO designation is that it had “achieved nothing.”

Blinken formally removed the Houthis from the FTO designation list on February 16, 2021. He cited recognition of the appalling humanitarian situation in Yemen.  A coalition of governments and NGOs brought the situation to the State Department’s attention. Specifically, the international community lauded the revocation of the FTO designation as a step forward in the right direction to ensure that crucial humanitarian assistance reaches those who need it most.

However, recently renewed calls have emerged from the Biden administration for designating the Houthis as an FTO once again. This consideration of re-designating the Houthis as an FTO has raised similar concerns to those in 2021. Specifically, Ansar Allah (the Houthis) controls more than a third of Yemeni territory, encompassing nearly 70% of the population. If the Houthis were re-designated an FTO, the flow of humanitarian aid would immediately deteriorate. Additionally concerning are the prospects of a re-designation of the Houthis as an FTO potentially emboldening the group to act with further impunity.

A Coalition

In response to the Biden administration’s calls to re-designate the Houthis as an FTO, a coalition of 20 NGOs including Oxfam, Mercy Corps and International Rescue Committee (IRC), have sent a letter in opposition to this re-designation. The coalition of NGOs maintained that they stood united alongside the Biden administration in its decision in 2021 to remove the Houthis from the FTO designation list. The coalition cited an agreement with the Biden administration’s initial reasoning for removing the designation, as it was worsening a dire humanitarian situation.

In this letter, the coalition has called for the Biden administration to avoid a re-designation to preserve and continue the progress made thus far. A promising development going forward is now the international community at large has a greater understanding of the pitfalls of FTO designations, they can hurt the wrong people and they often do. What is even more promising is that the NGOs are not alone anymore. On February 23, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy, alongside eleven other Congresspeople, called on the Biden administration to not pursue a designation because it would have a minimal impact on Houthi leadership and a catastrophic impact on the Yemeni people.

Chester Lankford
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in Yemen
Child marriage in Yemen is a centuries-old human rights violation. Adults, especially those living in poverty, force young teenage girls to marry men decades older than them due to reasons such as the relief of costs in caring for a child and for the heightened protection of a husband’s family. Perhaps worse than the basic psychological harm of having to enter into marriage, child brides endure abuse and face life-threatening risks. According to a 2019 report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), more than 4 million Yemeni girls are child brides and 1.4 million of these brides are younger than 15 years old. This practice needs to end to protect young girls physically and emotionally. Banning child marriage in Yemen would ensure young women the human rights they deserve.

The Impacts of Child Marriage

Because they are so young, when child brides experience intercourse or pregnancy, it often leads to physical complications. As Sarah Ferguson from UNICEF USA states in an article, “Child marriage increases a girl’s risk of violence and abuse and jeopardizes her health. Sometimes, it’s fatal.”

Yemeni child brides also lose their education rights. Young girls with dreams and aspirations should be able to endure a life of growth and opportunities. Further, husbands and family members expect young girls who marry to know how to handle managing a household. This factor influences parents in pulling daughters out of school to learn how to do so.

In a 2018 CNN interview, a 12-year-old girl named Halima spoke out about how her father forced her sisters to enter marriages and then pressured her to do the same. She spoke about how all of her friends’ families took their daughters out of school to get married. Unfortunately, Halima’s father also pushed her to ignore her desire and passion to become a physician.

The Government’s Failure to Protect Young Women

The government of Yemen has not been able to pass an effective civil agreement to curb child marriage. On February 11, 2009, the Parliament agreed to set the minimum age of marriage at 17. However, the Sharia Legislative Committee overruled that effort. In March 2010, the Parliament redrafted the bill, however, the Sharia Legislative Committee rejected it once again. When asked about why there is no minimum age limit for marriage, the Sharia Legislative Committee stated that having a minimum age for marriage is “un-Islamic.”  Twelve years later, in 2022, there is still no minimum age for marriage in Yemen.

Financial Desperation Leads to Child Marriage

In addition to Sharia law, financial hardship also pushes families to resort to marrying off their daughters. Whether it is because they cannot afford to take care of their daughter or because the family will receive a sum of money, many parents turn to child marriage as a way to ease their financial situations. To this degree, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Charlie Yaxley said at a virtual briefing in May 2020, “We are seeing a growing number of families resorting to harmful coping mechanisms such as begging, child labor and marrying off children to survive.”

The Solution to Child Marriage

Child marriage in Yemen has been an issue for centuries, but currently, there are human rights advocates who are taking strong stances against it. For example, UNICEF delivers life-saving services and supplies to Yemeni child brides. UNICEF also promotes awareness. For example, it does this by sharing stories of young girls who have had to fight for their lives in violent marriages, and how they have been able to survive, and eventually thrive, due to programs promoting their independence.

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) are urging governments, including Yemen, to immediately take steps to eradicate the practice. Among other rights violations, the committees specifically argue that child marriage is a setback to women’s rights and the ability to receive an education.

There are also individual human rights advocates who are taking up the issue. Nada al-Ahdal is a young Yemeni woman who escaped child marriage. She created an online video about her story that went viral. After that, she founded the Nada Foundation with the prime minister of Yemen to support young women in child marriages.

She also wrote a book published in several languages that advocates against the practice. Now based in London, she speaks around the world to encourage everyone to fight against the practice. In a 2021 IMIX story about her, she says, “I have met so many brave girls from across the world; Serbia, Pakistan, India, Morocco, Egypt. They are working so hard to change their communities. It’s not just their duty, it’s all of us, all of our duty.”

Looking Ahead: Advocacy for Policy Change

As child brides, young girls in Yemen are having their hopes, dreams and rights dissolved. Child marriage increases the risk of physical and emotional abuse as well as maternal mortality. However, with the help of advocacy within and beyond Yemen, the Yemeni government should eventually glean the power to establish effective change.

– Hayat Nagi
Photo: Flickr

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 violence 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 increasing 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 is 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 concerns around receiving 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 to males. 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 further abuse.

According to Articles 51-72 of Yemen’s Personal Status Law, men can obtain a divorce with significantly fewer limitations than women. Furthermore, 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, impoverished Yemeni households resort to marrying their daughters off young in an attempt to ease the economic burden 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 to prevent forced child 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, U.N. Women established the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security platform. U.N. Women 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