The State of Yemen has been embroiled in a civil conflict since the early days of its U.S. and Saudi-backed establishment in 1990. Throughout the following two decades, various political and religious groups vied for power against the rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. This power was mainly secured through a state of military patronage – meaning that his rule was “legitimized” by military prowess and a persistent framing of political and economic issues as the domain of military families.
As a result of local and international criticism of the ruler’s human rights violations, Arab Spring protests brought about a transition of power to his Vice-President, Abed Rabbo Mansour al-Hadi. It was during this time of instability that the modern crises began to unfold.
The main actors in the modern conflict, as of 2014, are Hadi’s government (backed by Saudi and the U.S.), Houthi Shi’a rebels (backed by Iran), and Al-Qaida (supported by some disillusioned supporters of Saleh). The ensuing conflict has been marked by Saudi and Iranian proxy-interference and a seemingly hopeless humanitarian situation.
Prior to the establishment of the Yemeni Arab Republic in 1990, the country was already the regions most impoverished. Water was scarce, reliance on foreign imports high and the governance constantly challenged. Now, after four years of conflict, the hope of a speedy reconstruction process has been lost and the civilian casualties are catastrophic. The U.N. humanitarian aid official in Yemen has confirmed that the number of civilian casualties has risen to over 10,000.
Currently, four out of five Yemenis – a population of 25 million – are in need of humanitarian assistance. These people face starvation, water pollution and rapid spread of disease, to say nothing of the daily toll of war on their psyche and community affiliations. Yet, the most horrific reality of this situation is the lack of humanitarian aid to Yemen that has been provided, mainly due to the unyielding air raids and mortar attacks which specifically target civilians.
Humanitarian Aid to Yemen
In a more forgiving context, the goal would be to provide food, medicine and various structural support upon the brokerage of a ceasefire. Unfortunately, to date, the success of such a deal in Yemen has been unattainable.
In 2017, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated Yemen’s needed aid at $2.3 billion. In the same year, the largest financial contributor to the crisis, the U.S. government, provided around 23 percent of the needed aid. The U.S. contribution was followed by aid from Saudi Arabi and the United Arab Emirates. In total, the amount of aid pledged by the international community covers 56 percent of the need.
Of the aid provided, 33.7 percent has been allocated to cover food security programs and 15.3 percent has been put towards health assistance. The main recipients of this funding are the World Food Programme, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates.
The Discrepancy in Humanitarian aid to Yemen
With nearly half of all humanitarian aid to Yemen going to food and health programs, the amount remaining for other necessities – which affect the long-term viability of the country’s survival – are severely underfunded.
Currently, only one percent of aid is being given to Save the Children, an international humanitarian organization that works to ensure the protection of Children’s Human Rights. Furthermore, only .2 percent has been allotted to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which typically works on issues of reproductive rights and safety and ending female genital mutilation.
At the moment, the provision of food and health aid is most urgent, however, it is vital to ensure further funding for programs that will help Yemen rebuild after the crisis.
– Katarina Schrag