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Concerns for Human Rights in CanadaWhile Canada has a relatively impressive human rights record, there are still a few concerns. The country has recently seen disproportionate mistreatment of indigenous populations, and its mining industry is also responsible for human rights violations. Finally, its policy on foreign aid deserves a second look. Here are some of issues with human rights in Canada nd what the nation (and the world) is doing to resolve these problems.

Indigenous Rights

One of the most prominent issues of human rights in Canada is the prevalence of violence against indigenous women and girls. Human Rights Watch found that while they make up only 4.3 percent of the female population, they account for 16 percent of all female homicides.

In 2015, the issue gained international attention after a declaration by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The declaration stated that Canada had violated the human rights of its indigenous population by failing to swiftly and thoroughly investigate the disproportionate violence they have experienced. Canada responded by launching a national public inquiry into the murders of indigenous women and girls throughout the state in August 2016.

The human rights of Canada’s indigenous communities are further affected by a persistent lack of clean water. In 2016, 92 First Nation communities had received a total of 132 drinking water advisories over the course of seven months. Contaminated water can have severe health consequences, ultimately causing gastrointestinal disorders and increasing the risk of cancer.

Issues in the Mining Industry

Issues of health and human rights are also present in Canada’s mining industry. Given the size of the industry, its impact on global human rights is enormous. In recent years, Human Rights Watch has uncovered pervasive patterns of poor working conditions and gang rape among Canadian employees in Papua New Guinea and the use of forced labor in mines in Eritrea. Many incidents go unreported and therefore cannot be remedied. The Canadian government has typically elected not to impose new oversight or regulations on the industry, and the Trudeau government has followed this pattern.

Foreign Policy Concerns

Also of concern are certain aspects of Canada’s foreign policy and how they impact the human rights of foreign citizens. Canadian law stipulates that the exporting of military technology to is only legal if “there is no reasonable risk” that the arms will be used against civilians and places limits on what can be sold to countries with poor human rights records. However, Canada has previously exported military vehicles and other goods to Saudi Arabia. These were used in 2011 and 2012 to violently suppress peaceful protests.

Solving these Problems

As in most of the world, there are issues with the protection of human rights in Canada as well as Canada’s protection of human rights around the world. Despite this, it is clear that the state has the structures necessary to address these issues. Laws regarding human rights in Canada stem from the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created by the international community after World War II.

The first two articles of the declaration, which concern equality and freedom from discrimination, are the foundation of the Canadian Human Rights Act. Passed in 1977, this act protects Canadians from identity-based discrimination and harassment. While the protections afforded through this legislation have not been explicitly integrated into the constitution, the Supreme Court has decided that Canadian laws must be interpreted in ways that are consistent with them.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is a federal agency that works to promote the principle of equal opportunity and prevent discrimination through educating the public on human rights cultures; conducting and publishing relevant research; managing citizen complaints and representing the public interest.

Many complaints brought before the commission are referred to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, a separate, independent entity which operates much like a court. The tribunal hears the cases and has the authority to order remedies or award damages.

With these mechanisms in place, Canada has the means necessary to respond to human rights crises within its borders. While further international pressure may be needed to pursue the state to pursue justice and reforms both at home and within its foreign policy. However, given the strong record of protection of human rights in Canada, it is likely that the state will continue to work to adhere to its policies and uphold international norms.

Alena Zafonte
Photo: Flickr

Cycle of RefugeesThe Rohingya are the most persecuted people in the world. The population has lived in Myanmar for centuries, but the government continues to view the people as illegal immigrants. Across the border, Bangladesh believes the group is Burmese. Thus, the population is stateless.

Since August of 2017, the Rohingya people have been forced to flee Myanmar to Bangladesh due to intense persecution and attempted ethnic cleansing. Human Rights Watch recently released new satellite imagery showing 62 villages in northern Rakhine suffering from arson attacks. The U.N. Human Rights Chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, describes the violence as “crimes against humanity, systematic attacks and forcible deportation of civilians.”

What is the reason for so much anger and violence? According to MSN, the answer is “nationalism-fuelled racism.”

The majority of the Rohingya refugees arrive in Bangladesh on foot, crossing a border lined with landmines by the Myanmar army. The government denies reports of landmines despite numerous claims from NGOs, such as Amnesty International. Other refugees have used small boats to flee. However, some of the passengers have drowned or the boats have sunk. Accounts have been devastating for many of the refugees at sea.

These allegations made by the international community are horrific, and they paint a picture bordering on genocide. Myanmar’s government responded to these claims, stating its military was fighting a terrorist insurgency.

In July of 2017, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army claimed responsibility for attacks with machetes and rifles in Myanmar. This single attack is believed to have triggered the mass violence and cleansing of the Rohingya population within Myanmar. The government of Myanmar has chosen to view the whole population as a terrorist organization, instead of locating the terrorists within the population.

The situation has become so extreme, the U.N. Security Council publicly rebuked the violence. The council acknowledged attacks on Myanmar security forces, but condemned the violence in response, urging for steps to end the violence.

The stateless people simply want a home, a land of their own. “We want to live peacefully in our native land. We don’t want to be on the strain of other countries,” Tun, a U.K. based activist, told MSN.

The international community wants to see urgent action to protect the welfare of the Rohingya refugees, as well as plan for the future. Formal recognition of the Rohingya as a minority in Myanmar is vital to prevent this cycle of violence. Provision of humanitarian aid and dispatch of U.N. peacekeepers are vital to the health and safety of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Azerbaijan Continue to StruggleA relatively small nation of 10 million people which borders on Turkey, Azerbaijan faces many challenges regarding its human rights. Much like its larger neighbour, Azerbaijan deals wtih ongoing struggles with censorship and the suppression of free speech.

A nation whose economy relies heavily on its production and exports of oil, Azerbaijan has been hit especially hard by the recession of oil prices in the past year. As a result, the Manat – Azerbaijan’s currency – has seen a drastic fall in its value. Protests held in response to the decline of the Manat have faced suppression – sometimes violent – by the state police and military forces.

Reports of abuse and torture at the hands of police have continued to surface, notably in the cases of youth activists who have been beaten and threatened with sexual degradation and rape in order to force them to confess to drug charges. Although the exact number cannot be verified, the U.S. State Department’s 2016 report notes that at least four cases of death can be linked to abusive and excessive force at the hands of police. In other cases, significant numbers of defendants have reported being beaten by authorities to drag confessions and testimonies against political opponents of the state out of them.

In an act doing little to encourage the populace, the 2016 constitutional referendum increased the duration of Presidential term limits while granting the office additional powers. Most worryingly it granted the ability to dissolve the Azerbaijani Parliament at will.

Reporting critical of the government often leads to the harassment and imprisonment of journalists who are responsible. At the close of 2016, at least 14 prisoners of conscience were still being detained, according to Amnesty International’s report. Human Rights Watch’s report puts the number of political prisoners at upwards of 25, while the State Department notes the number could reach as high as 160.

A bright patch amid the darkness, the president pardoned over 100 prisoners in March of 2016; among them were 14 individuals commonly believed to be imprisoned for their political beliefs. Recently, on September 15, a group of Azerbaijani human rights defenders issued a statement thanking the president and courts of Azerbaijan, saying, “We state that such steps serve defence of human rights and freedom in Azerbaijan, humanization of punishment policy and increase of effectiveness of judicial system.”

Human rights in Azerbaijan have a long way to go before the citizens of Azerbaijan have equal and protected rights. Not least among the challenges before the nation are the continued abuses of power by the government and police, allowed by the complicity of a corrupt judiciary. Efforts from outside the country, such as bills before the U.S. House of Representatives as well as EU-affiliated organizations, hope to pressure the nation’s government into reforming their violations of human rights in Azerbaijan.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Estonia

Estonia, a European country located near the Baltic Sea, has been a member of the European Union for 13 years. It is a parliamentary republic, but the country still struggles with the consequences of being under Soviet rule until 1991. Estonia has come a long way since the collapse of the Soviet Union, but there are still barriers to full human rights in Estonia as a result of ethnic tensions.

Child statelessness has consistently been a major issue in Estonia. Statelessness is when a person does not possess citizenship in any country. Over six percent of the Estonian population remains stateless, and many of those affected are children. There are several international requirements for statelessness that Estonia has yet to comply with, and they have the tenth largest stateless population in the world even though their overall population is only 1.3 million.

In January 2016, the government made amendments to citizenship laws to make it easier for people to become citizens, but it is still difficult for children between 16 and 18 years old who were not born in Estonia to become Estonian citizens. While statelessness barely impacts the level of education or healthcare these children receive, it can often make them a target of discrimination, causing them to experience unequal human rights in Estonia.

The tension between citizens and the stateless is a result of several factors. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the government enforced citizenship requirements that made almost 40 percent of inhabitants stateless, the majority of whom were originally from Russia. The requirements included an Estonian language exam. Human Rights Watch labeled this extreme process as “discriminatory” and in direct opposition to international agreements. Most of those discriminated against were Russians.

This discrimination is a result of fear. Under the Soviet Union, Estonia suffered from oppression at the hands of Russians. Even today, Estonians still remember the pain caused by the USSR. The president of Estonia, Kersti Kaljulaid, has openly expressed worry about Russia’s movements. While these fears are not baseless, Estonians end up projecting them onto their neighbors who are ethnically Russian, causing an environment that challenges the state of human rights in Estonia.

Because statelessness status in Estonia often results in discrimination against Russian-born individuals, the tension between the two ethnic groups is reinforced. With Estonia working towards reforming citizenship laws, Russian people living in Estonia will hopefully become Estonians and the country can fully heal the old scars left by the USSR.

Julia McCartney

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in FinlandFinland has a population of about 5.5 million, and is seated next to Sweden and Norway. Human rights in Finland are ultimately made a priority by the country’s government, and this country is considered more progressive than most, although there are still a few areas that could be improved.

According to a report from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, the Nordic country strives to dedicate time and attention to minorities in the country, including the Roma, linguistic or religious minorities and other ethnic minorities. On the other hand, the report also states that residents who belong to multiple of these minority groups are typically “the most vulnerable to human rights violations.” Finland promotes openness in respect to human rights policy and works toward “effective empowerment of the civil society,” according to the same report.

Human rights in Finland are also supported by nongovernment organizations in the region. In addition, human rights defenders work with minority groups. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs states that, “the key message is to encourage and urge the Ministry’s entire staff to collaborate actively with human rights defenders.”

Finland prioritizes areas including women’s rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of sexual and gender minorities, the rights of indigenous peoples and economic, social and cultural rights, according to the report. Regarding the rights of sexual minorities, in March of this year, Finland became the 13th country in Europe to allow same-sex marriage, according to the Human Rights Watch.

While human rights in Finland are heavily prioritized, there are still areas in need of improvement.

The U.S. Department of the State reports that human rights problems in Finland include the failure of police to provide detainees with timely access to legal council, “questionable” donations and contributions to political campaigns and violence against women and members of the LGBT community.

The report also included information on issues surrounding the treatment of survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence. It stated that survivors seeking justice have encountered many obstacles with respect to their interactions with police and judicial officials. However, it also stated that police and government officials strongly encourage victims to report rapes through “various public awareness campaigns.”

While human rights in Finland have a few shortcomings, they are one of the more progressive nations in Europe, meaning that further progress is certainly possible.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in GuineaStill in the early stages of transitioning into a constitutional democracy after decades of authoritarian rule, Guinea still has significant room for improvement regarding its human rights. Guinea struggles with issues such as state-sponsored violence against dissidents, violence against women and restrictions on freedom of the press. Despite the implementation of the modified Criminal Code in 2016 – which criminalized torture and abolished the death penalty for ordinary crimes – the defamation and insulting of public figures remain punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment. With a score of 41 out of 100 in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2017 report, Guinea continues to be classified as a Partly Free nation.

According to the United States Department of State’s 2016 Human Rights Report on Guinea, the country’s second democratic presidential campaign in 2015 was more peaceful than the previous one in 2010 or the 2013 legislative elections. Incumbent president Alpha Condé won re-election with 58 percent of the vote. The report does mention, however, that a few deaths still occurred during confrontations between demonstrators and state security forces.

Human Rights Watch has reported that the election was flawed, though Condé’s government took steps in 2016 to consolidate the rule of law and address the excessive use of force employed by security forces. Human rights violations by these security forces have reportedly decreased, but the Guinean judiciary appears to have done little to investigate past instances of state-sponsored violence – except the 2009 massacre of unarmed protesters. The massacre occurred under the military rule of Moussa Dadis Camara and resulted in the death of over 100 protesters. According to Human Rights Watch, while the investigation received political and financial support from the government, there was significant failure to suspend high-ranking government suspects from their positions.

In addition to the use of force against dissidents, the freedoms of speech, press and assembly are also restricted in order to decrease public criticism of the government. Since 2016, there have been multiple cases of citizens being imprisoned or fined for defamation or being in “contempt of the President.” In June 2016, journalist Malick Bouya Kébé of a private radio station was fined one million Guinean francs (approximately $112) for complicity in contempt of the President; he failed to interrupt a listener who criticized the president during a phone-in segment. His listener, another journalist, was sentenced to a year in prison and fined 1.5 million Guinean francs (approximately $168). To put this in perspective, the average annual income in Guinea is approximately $446. Both were tried without access to a lawyer.

Discrimination and violence against women and girls have also been human rights issues needing improvement in Guinea. In accordance with Guinean law, violence against women causing injury is punishable by up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of 30,000 Guinean francs (approximately $3.30). Though the law does not specifically address domestic violence, a charge of general assault carries a sentence of two to five years and a fine of up to 300,000 Guinean francs (approximately $33). Though grounds for divorce, the U.S. State Department has found that police rarely intervene in instances of domestic violence. It has also been reported that approximately 96 percent of Guinean women and girls have undergone female genital mutilation or cutting.

Key international actors such as the European Union, the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and the International Criminal Court have undertaken efforts to strengthen judicial reforms, support security sector reform and engage national authorities on progress in investigations into state-sponsored violence. In its 2017 World Report, Human Rights Watch asserts that there must be more international pressure put on the Guinean government from these international actors in order for there to be lasting improvements made on human rights in Guinea.

Amanda Quinn

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in SwazilandSwaziland is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, and has been ruled by the absolute monarch, King Mswati III, since 1986. The current state of human rights in Swaziland is lamentable. Although the Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland Act – which guarantees basic human rights – took effect in 2005, numerous incidents of human rights violations have been reported, including repression of political dissent and banning of political parties.

In 2016, specific cases of infringement of human rights in Swaziland included restrictions on freedom of assembly. The police took advantage of the Urban Act, which requires protesters to report any plans of a public protest two weeks prior to the event, and cracked down on it by attacking protesters. For example, in February the Swazi police arrested two leaders of the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT), Mcolisi Ngcamphalala and Mbongwa Dlamini, who were participating in protests.

On September 22, 2016, the Human Rights Watch released a statement that criticized the Swazi government for not implementing the recommendations it accepted during its last Universal Periodic Review (URP) in 2011. These recommendations – which were aimed at ensuring progress in human rights reform in the country – comprised: elimination of all restrictions on fundamental civil and political rights, allowing political freedom through fair and transparent democratic elections and decriminalization of same-sex relations. Despite the apparent absence of democracy in Swaziland, the king has recently carried out a deceptive campaign to convince his citizens that their country is a democratic kingdom.

The future of human rights in Swaziland is unclear. However, the recent performance by the country’s High Court is notable. In September 2016, the court declared the Suppression of Terrorism Act, which had been used by the government to ban opposition to King Mswati’s rule, as unconstitutional. If similar political decisions are made in the future, it would mean more progress for human rights in Swaziland.

Minh Joo Yi

Photo: Google

Elpida home for refugees
While the 2015 refugee crisis somewhat faded from the international media’s view, the flow of refugees and the vulnerability of their human rights remains a meaningful concern among the international community.

From the start of the year to July 2017, more than 100,000 asylum seekers arrived in Europe by sea and upward of 2,000 additional individuals did not survive the attempted crossing. Since the beginning of the crisis, asylum seekers who managed to reach Europe arrived to inadequate and sometimes even dangerous conditions.

At first, in 2015, this seemed to be a symptom of inadequate legislation. However, the fact that these inhumane conditions have persisted points to insufficient humanitarian funding and the deliberate neglect of refugees.

Emina Cerimovic, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, stated that “the mental impact of years of conflict, exacerbated by harsh conditions” and “the uncertainty of inhumane policies, may not be as visible as physical wounds, but is no less life-threatening.” This warning came at a crucial time, as Hungary continues to house asylum seekers in shipping containers despite protests from the United Nations, European Union and the greater international community. As time has gone on, conditions in refugee camps remained stagnant and residents became increasingly less independent. They are forced to rely on the entity running their center for more of their basic needs.

NPR reporter Soraya Nelson, who visited a camp on the Hungary-Serbia border, describes it as a detention camp with only one accessible exit, which enters Serbia, a country that also struggles to uphold just migration policies. According to Nelson, all other gates are heavily guarded. The idea is that “people will get so fed up, they might just decide to leave.”

The containers that make up the camp, while more sturdy than the tents provided in many E.U. refugee centers, are undeniably cramped and allow for little ventilation. Their structure provides no clear separation of families and also house unaccompanied minors, one of the most controversial groups within the asylum-seeking population.

Despite this failure, the Elpida Home for Refugees, located near the industrial Center of Thessaloniki, Greece, provides a model for the future. Elpida, which means “hope” in Greek, managed to bridge the gap between inhumane refugee policies and the humane treatment of refugees. The center was founded by American philanthropist Ahmed Khan in partnership with the Radcliffe Foundation and the Greek Ministry of the Interior as an experiment in refugee assistance.

The Ministry donated an abandoned textile factory to the cause when presented with the concept for Elpida: to provide refugees the independence and services they need to continue their lives. The 6,000 square-meter space was converted into 140 residential units, each for six people or less, with shared bathrooms and a communal kitchen, allowing residents to enjoy private space, prepare meals and participate in the community.

The Elpida Home for Refugees is based on the idea that refugees need assistance from the bottom-up instead of from the top-down as is provided elsewhere. Top-down assistance means asylum seekers receive a small designated space in an overcrowded, often outdoor facility, with limited access to proper nutrition, hygiene and medical care. In these scenarios, typical of most refugee camps, residents are entirely reliant on the government or NGO who operates the camp.

Alternatively, the bottom-up care provided by the Elpida Home for Refugees allows its residents to utilize the tools made available by the organization, such as access to medical care, education, and their own personal rooms, to reclaim their lives and become independent.

The cooperation between the Greek government and the Radcliffe foundation can easily be replicated by other countries and organizations and then even more asylum seekers may find Elpida’s “hope” when they are most vulnerable.

Alena Zafonte

Human Rights in GeorgiaIn the summer of 2008, international attention was directed at the human rights in Georgia, and violations surrounding the Russo-Georgian War. But while eyes have shifted to other zones of conflict, the disputes about the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia still entail insecurity and human rights abuses.

Ethnic struggles and disputes over independence had already lingered in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for years, when armed conflict broke out between Russia, Georgia and the Georgian breakaway regions in August 2008. All sides were accused of abusing human rights in Georgia during or after the conflict. Human Rights Watch reported that the Russian army fired on civilian vehicles in numerous cases, killing and wounding many. Russia and Georgia also allegedly both made use of cluster ammunition, inflicting further deaths upon civilians and leaving behind unstable “minefields,” according to the NGO.

The war only lasted for five days, but the withdrawal of Georgia from the breakaway regions did not end the suffering of civilians. The South Ossetian army was accused of conducting a violent “cleansing” campaign against ethnic Georgians in the aftermath of the war: destroying villages, killing civilians, torturing prisoners of war and displacing tens of thousands of Georgians. Reportedly, the Georgian population of the conflict zone was reduced by at least 75 percent.

In 2016, the International Criminal Court has launched an investigation into possible war crimes, such as pillaging and attacks against civilians and peacekeepers, as well as crimes against human rights in Georgia, including forced transfer of populations and murder.

South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence has been recognized by the Russian government after the war, as well as by Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru. But the regions are still generally regarded as Georgian territories currently occupied by Russia by the majority of the international community. The breakaway regions have their own governments but are dependent on support from Russia. The boundaries are guarded by Russian forces in addition to the de facto forces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and both regions receive financial aid from the Russian government.

Tensions about the future of the Georgian breakaway regions remain. In a referendum earlier this year, almost 80 percent of South Ossetia’s population voted to rename the region the “State of Alania,” mirroring the name of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, which is part of the Russian Federation. The referendum was perceived as a provocation in Georgia since the name stresses an ethnic distinction from Georgia and suggests unity with North Ossetia-Alania, and therefore with Russia. Georgia, as well as the United States and the EU, have condemned the referendum as illegitimate.

As Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International state in their most recent reports, the tensions around South Ossetia and Abkhazia still infringe on the rights of residents living and working in the frontier area.

In the past year, Russian and South Ossetian authorities conducted an effort to fence what they consider to be a “state border.” Therefore, some local residents’ access to their land or homes was cut off, impacting their “rights to work, food and adequate standard of living,” according to Amnesty International. Russia also continues to move the border, thus increasingly creeping further into former Georgian territory. In October 2016, the New York Times reported on the plight of the residents of the border village Jariasheni. One of them does not dare to return home after his house was suddenly on the other side of the elastic boundary line. Some residents have been arrested after finding themselves on the wrong side accidentally, because of the line’s uncertainty. “[W]ho knows where Russia will start tomorrow or the next day,” one resident is cited.

Abkhazia has also increasingly tightened the control over its border: in 2016 and 2017, all but two border crossings have been closed. NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu criticized these closures for impacting local residents’ livelihood and for restricting the freedom of movement of hundreds of citizens who used the crossings daily. As Voice of America reports, they were used, for instance, by ethnic Georgians to visit their schools or medical facilities. The closure also cuts through family ties and hampers some residents’ access to their property and crops, affecting human rights in Georgia.

The boundaries are not recognized as borders by Georgia and its allies, who see them merely as “administrative boundary lines” – but crossing these boundaries can have very real and serious consequences. In the past year, dozens of people were reportedly detained by Russian or regional authorities while trying to cross the boundary lines. Several of them accused the authorities of torture and ill-treatment, for example, of beatings. In May 2016, a Georgian man was killed by an Abkhazian border guard while trying to enter Abkhazia.

As Georgia strengthens its ties with the European Union and NATO, Russia continues to enhance its influence over the Georgian breakaway regions, seemingly heading for an outright annexation. A permanent, peaceful solution to the conflict and thus an end to the insecurities experienced by the local residents are not yet in sight.

Lena Riebl

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