Nuclear Energy In Developing CountriesIn early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a rapid drop in energy demand, laying the foundation for an energy crisis. This foundation was strengthened by the 2020 Russia-Saudi Arabia Oil Price War and cemented by the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, culminating in the collapse of the global oil trade, starting the energy crisis. The energy crisis has hit developing countries the hardest, as developing countries are more reliant on non-renewable sources of energy. As a result, renewable sources of energy, such as nuclear power, are gaining popularity in developing countries as a way to provide energy beyond the methods hurt by the energy crisis. However, nuclear energy in developing countries is still in its infancy. Here are some facts regarding the future of nuclear energy in developing countries.

4 Facts About Nuclear Energy in Developing Countries

  1. Countries Can Form New Partnerships. The most commonly used source of nuclear energy in developing countries, uranium, is not found in every country. By creating nuclear power plants based on uranium, many developing countries give off the impression to nations unaligned with them that they are looking to enter into new trade deals. This was the case in Pakistan in March 2021, when it completed a nuclear power plant with the help of China. This cooperation led to a new trade agreement between Pakistan and China that allowed for a greater exchange of minerals such as those necessary to help build the power plant.
  2. Protection Against Natural Disasters. Out of the 10 deadliest natural disasters in 2021, most of them occurred in developing countries. The threat of a natural disaster is a leading cause of anti-nuclear sentiments, as damage to a power plant could cause tens of thousands to have to evacuate and potentially kill thousands of people. However, through new thorium-based reactors, it is almost impossible to cause a meltdown in a modern nuclear power plant. This is because new reactors make use of a liquid form of thorium that relies on a plutonium battery to produce energy. If a natural disaster were to occur, the thorium could be drained away from the plutonium battery, preventing a meltdown and saving the lives of thousands of people in developing countries.
  3. Defense Against Terrorism. In many developing countries, terrorists pose a major threat to the energy industry. This is evident how in 2019, the Houthi destroyed an oil facility in Saudi Arabia, impacting the production of 5 million barrels per day, according to The Guardian. However, because of new isolation-based reactors, nuclear power plants do not face the same threat. This is because thorium is not a weaponizable material, since its fission doesn’t produce plutonium, which is one of the elements that nuclear weapons use.
  4. Removing the Reliance on Fossil Fuels. Due to an already established reliance on coal, oil, or other fossil fuels, it might be difficult for a developing country with a fossil fuel-based energy system to transition to nuclear-based energy. Despite this, investing in nuclear power has benefits in the long run, even if a developing country has a reliance on fossil fuels. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) projects that by 2050, nuclear energy “could contribute about 12% of global electricity.”

Looking Forward

While nuclear energy may have a slow start in many developing countries, it certainly has a promising future. For instance, in March 2022, Nigeria committed itself to construct a power plant, which could provide energy to millions of impoverished Nigerians.

Along with that, in 2021, Bangladesh began construction of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant with the primary purpose of solving Bangladesh’s longstanding energy problem.

There are certainly hurdles to developing nuclear energy in developing countries. However, as seen in Nigeria and Bangladesh, it is definitely possible to establish nuclear energy within developing countries. As these countries transition away from fossil fuels and into renewables such as nuclear energy, they could be providing a stable source of energy to tens of millions of impoverished people that could live a life with energy without the threat of global disruptions.

– Humzah Ahmad
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

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

World Bank announced they will give $450 million in grants for Yemen to rebuild from the destruction of the ongoing civil war.

The first grant is $250 million to expand the Emergency Crisis Response Project, which began in August 2016. This project, a partnership between World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), helps provide short-term employment opportunities for Yemenis and help provide social services through the Social Fund for Development and Public Works Projects, which have existed in Yemen for over 20 years. This grant is predicted to help about two million Yemenis.

The second grant is $200 million for the Emergency Health and Nutrition Project, which will help about seven million Yemenis by ensuring they have access to health care and nutritional services.

The Yemeni civil war began in spring 2015. It is a fight between current President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi’s loyalists and Houthi rebels. In winter 2015, the Houthis took over the capital and forced the president to flee. Saudi Arabia and Sunni countries rose to Hadi’s defense when he was forced to flee Yemen. This crisis grew into a civil war. According to the World Health Organization, the civil war has left less than half of the nation’s hospitals fully functional. According to the U.N., at least 7,500 Yemenis have been killed in the civil war and at least 40,000 Yemenis have been injured. In addition, almost 20 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance.

The civil war wracked an already fragile nation. Even in 2012, before the civil war, over 40% of Yemen’s population was malnourished.

In addition to partnering with the World Bank, the UNDP has many other projects to help Yemen through working with the government and private sectors to help Yemen’s humanitarian needs.

These grants for Yemen will make an important impact on a country in deep need for generations to come.

Jennifer Taggart

Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in YemenAccording to UNICEF, malnutrition in Yemen has reached an all-time high.

The organization reports that an estimated 462,000 children in the country suffer from severe malnutrition, an increase of around 200 percent since 2014. Another 2.2 million children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance to stop any further decline in their health. UNICEF warns that even after the conflict ends, fatal malnutrition may linger and children will continue to suffer from the effects of starvation. Furthermore, at least one child dies in the country every ten minutes from malnutrition, diarrhea or respiratory tract infections.

Malnutrition in Yemen has become a major cause of death for children under the age of 5. The region has seen many children suffer from stunting, a condition where the child is short for their age and that is a symptom of chronic malnutrition. The region that has suffered the heaviest bombing, Saada Governorate, has the world’s highest stunting rates for children, reaching eight out of ten children in certain areas. The condition is indicative of severe mental and physical decline and is irreversible.

More than 900 children were killed in the first year of the war in Yemen alone, making up a third of all civilian deaths. UNICEF reports that thousands more suffer as a result of the conflict. The number of children out of school in Yemen was high even before the conflict, and that number has expanded to two million as schools have closed due to the war. “The state of health of children in the Middle East’s poorest country has never been as catastrophic as it is today,” says Meritxell Relano, UNICEF’s acting representative in Yemen, reporting to Al Jazeera.

Yemen ranks 154th in the world for human development. The displacement of 3.2 million people and limited fuel and food imports have created a severe humanitarian crisis. According to UNICEF, four out of five Yemenis are in need of humanitarian aid.

In addition to malnutrition in Yemen, lack of infrastructure has furthered the country’s health crisis. Water and sewage systems have been damaged during the conflict, and a lack of fuel imports have made it impossible to deliver water to civilians in desperate need. The same lack of fuel has made hospitals unable to power generators in the midst of this severe health crisis.

In October, health officials in Yemen confirmed a cholera outbreak, a severe threat to children already suffering from the lack of healthcare in the country. According to Relano, the conflict has curtailed advances in healthcare in the country and led to the spread of diseases like cholera and measles that disproportionately affect children.

The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when troops loyal to the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, combined forces with a group known as the Houthi movement and attempted to take back the country from the internationally recognized president, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Since the Houthi and their allies have taken much of the country, a coalition of countries that are supported by western powers (including the United States) has undertaken an air campaign against the rebels. Since the air campaign began in March 2015, over 10,000 people have been killed and millions have been forced out of their homes.

While the Houthi and their allies have committed serious human rights abuses, the majority of the deaths in this conflict have been attributed to air strikes. The two deadliest incidences in the war so far were an attack on a market that killed 97 civilians in March and an attack on a funeral hall in October that resulted in over 100 deaths. According to Human Rights Watch, the United States is complicit in both of these attacks by providing the deadly weapons that were used to bomb civilians.

Human Rights Watch further urges the United States to permanently ban the sale of munitions to Saudi Arabia, as the bombs sold by the U.S. to this country have been found at the sites of 23 illegal airstrikes. In addition, the international community must do more to address the severe crisis of malnutrition in Yemen.

Eva Kennedy

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Yemen

Ranked 160 out of 188 countries on the UNDP Human Development index, Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arab World. Ravaged by conflict for the past year and a half, poverty in Yemen has been increasing and will likely continue to do so as conflict is prolonged.

Since Houthi rebels seized the government in 2014, a Saudi-led coalition has been engaged in combat with them. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and ISIS have also increased activity opposed to both groups and further serve to increase unrest.

So far, the conflict has resulted in over 6,400 deaths, over 30,500 people injured and 2.8 million people internally displaced. In a country of 25.6 million people, 82% of the population is in need of emergency humanitarian assistance and 19.3 million Yemenis are without safe drinking water or sanitation. At the beginning of the conflict, 14.4 million Yemenis faced chronic food insecurity, but that figure has increased by 35% since the conflict began.

The conflict has also had a significant toll on economic activity. Oil and gas exports, Yemen’s main source of income, have ceased. Imports have also contracted, aside from critical food and energy imports. Inflation reached as high as 30% in 2015, and is expected to increase further as the fiscal performance continues to weaken.

To alleviate the crisis, more than 70 humanitarian organizations have been attempting to provide assistance to those experiencing these conditions. However, limited access and budgets have hampered its ability to reach a majority of the population.

The UNDP initiative, Yemen Our Home, is one of the actors attempting to provide relief to the Yemeni people. Yemen Our Home is trying to garner support for and donors to restore and support community functions such as through a recent deal with Sabafon Telecommunication Company, which created a mobile clinic in the Sho’ub District of Yemen’s Capital City, Sana’a. Other projects that the initiative is attempting to fund and implement include solid waste management in cities, food production and energy.

Even before the most recent conflict, Yemen was one of the poorest countries in the Middle East. Thirty-seven percent of the population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day per person, the concentration of which live in rural areas. Statistics from 2012 indicate that almost 60% of children under the age of five have chronic malnutrition, 35% are underweight, and 13% have acute malnutrition, which are some of the highest rates in the world.

Poverty in Yemen persists in part due to lack of access to basic resources such as land and water and to services such as health care and education. With a majority of the population living in rural areas, their state of isolation makes it even more difficult for people living in poverty to gain access to resources and services.

Such conditions compounded with poor infrastructure prevent humanitarian assistance from accessing those Yemenis in need. Even with a cease-fire signed in March, difficult-to-reach areas are limited in the amount of assistance they can receive.

As long as conflict continues, poverty in Yemen will only increase in magnitude. Restoring peace and order is critical for beginning reconstruction and addressing the issue of poverty.

Adam Gonzalez

Photo: flickr