In 2019, an estimation concluded that 29 million Americans would spend a total of nearly $500 million to dress up their pets on Halloween. Half a billion dollars is equivalent to 25% of the money needed to fund the U.N.’s June through December 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan assisting Yemen. War and displacement in Yemen and Somalia have caused a lack of funds and resources in these countries. However, some organizations are attempting to provide aid.
The History of Yemen and Somalia
Yemen’s poverty rate increased from 47% of the population living in poverty in 2014 to 75% at the end of 2019. The war in Yemen is contributing to poverty, and if it continues, Yemen could become the poorest country in the world by 2022. Yemen has been in a civil war since 2014 when Houthi rebels took over the capital. The conflict took off when a Saudi-led military coalition fought back against the rebels to defend the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The combat has been going on ever since and has plunged Yemen deeper and deeper into poverty.
The nearby country of Somalia has been struggling as well. General Siad Barre led a military coup and took over the government in 1969. In 1988, northern tribes rebelled against the dictator, and then in 1991, tribes from the north and south fought and brought down Barre. From 1991 on, a civil war has ravaged Somalia, with different factions fighting throughout the country.
The Displacement of Somalis
As the Somalian civil war has been charging on, Yemen, despite its instability, has been a place of refuge for around 200,000 fleeing Somalis. The action and displacement in Yemen and Somalia have caused many hardships for these countries’ citizens. The incoming Somalis, as well as the Yemenis, are facing dire conditions due to circumstances in Yemen. For example, Yemen imports most of its food, but since the beginning of the war, the cost of wheat flour has increased by 120%. The high poverty rate, combined with rising food prices, is leading to malnourishment affecting 3.2 million children and women.
Along with war and displacement in Yemen and Somalia increasing the risk of famine, Yemen is struggling with health care facilities. The war caused damage to more than half of Yemen’s health care facilities; as a result, these facilities were unable to provide sterile water and sanitation to 20.5 million people. Poor sanitation leads to many disease outbreaks, and this threat compounds the already-present risk of COVID-19. This situation is not only dangerous for Yemenis but also affects Somalian refugees residing in the country.
Aid for Yemenis and Somalis
Mercy Corps has been helping people in Yemen by providing them with food vouchers, repairing their water systems and educating them about health. In 2019, Mercy Corps assisted 1.2 million people, and the organization is now working to limit the effects of COVID-19.
Besides Mercy Corps, the UNHCR, the U.N. Refugee Agency, is also helping to mitigate the effects of displacement in Yemen and Somalia. The UNHCR began its Assisted Spontaneous Return (ASR) program in 2017. The ASR program assists Somalis on their return home from Yemen. By 2019, the ASR program had organized 37 trips, and more than 4,800 refugees had returned from Yemen to Somalia.
Fashion designer Gabriela Hearst has also decided to pitch in to help Yemen. From December 2 to 9, 2019, she donated all of her proceeds to Save the Children. Save the Children is a nonprofit organization that works towards relief on the ground in Yemen. To make the initiative more successful, she decided to “make her eclectic handbags” available at her online store. Typically, she only sells this handbag collection by request giving it a high value.
There is more the world can do to combat the war and displacement in Yemen and Somalia; however, Mercy Corps, the UNHCR and individuals such as Gabriela Hearst are making significant strides toward improvement.
– Hailee Shores