10 Facts About the Famine in Yemen

Nestled between Saudi Arabia and Oman, Yemen was declared to be in a state of emergency on March 13, 2017, by the World Food Program. The World Health Organization reports that acute shortages of clean water and sanitation face eight million people. Furthermore, the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund says, “There are 2.2 million children in Yemen at risk of acute malnutrition and 462,000 severely and acutely malnourished.”

Millions of people live on the fringe of starvation in Africa as a result of drought, crop failure, population imbalance, government policies and war. The ongoing famine in Yemen affects 17 million people today, roughly 70 percent of its population.

According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “The situation in Yemen is characterized by widespread insecurity, large-scale displacement, civil strife, political instability, chronic food shortages, a breakdown of social services, endemic poverty, and refugee influxes.”

Here are ten key components of the situation that you should know:

  1. According to the OCHA, Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and North Africa. A lack of financial resources and infrastructure have created an economy that is unable to support growing conflicts between opposing political factions. The situation has escalated and resulted in the current famine in Yemen.
  2. With a shortage of funding and deep-rooted poverty, more than 50 percent of families in the country are buying food on credit. The situation has accentuated the need for a global humanitarian response in terms of providing medicine and food. These needs are especially paramount for women and children, who represent the most vulnerable of a population during a period of famine or conflict.
  3. A lack of access to food and nutritional resources is not a new situation in Yemen. A locust infestation in the country last April posed a viable threat to food security that has not abated.
  4. The famine in Yemen is due in part to internal conflict between a coalition that is loyal to the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi rebel movement. The conflict has been exacerbated due to an air campaign by Saudi Arabia, with its goal being to restore the Hadi government.
  5. In response to the famine in Yemen, various nations and organizations have contributed resources to mitigate its impact, as well as rebuild its infrastructure and provide medical supplies. The U.N. responded to the crisis with a conference in Geneva in April. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of the $2.1 billion goal was pledged to help resolve the famine in Yemen.
  6. In addition, U.N. aid chief Stephan O’Brien has urged member countries to keep the port of Hodeidah open. The port is the location for the reception of incoming food imports.
  7. The United States government has also responded to the famine in Yemen, with President Donald Trump reiterating his commitment to fighting global famine during his May visit to the Vatican. Although relief funds from the U.S. face severe cuts for the next fiscal year, the momentum has begun for a more proactive global relief program.
  8. One of the strongest responses has been initiated by the WHO, which launched the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2017. To achieve success, the plan requires $326 million from a variety of health partners, including $126 million from the U.S. Targeted beneficiaries of the funding will include women and children.
  9. The WHO reported that it had coordinated the operation of 406 general health and nutrition teams in 266 Yemeni districts in 2016, with funding coming from a variety of donors: Japan, the League of Arab States, the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund, the United Arab Emirates, the UNOCHA Common Humanitarian Fund and the U.S.
  10. There have also been responses to the famine from private organizations and individuals. Muslim Aid is running a campaign to raise donations for water and medical aid to Yemen.

Because the famine in Yemen has yet to abate, opportunities remain for humanitarian organizations, governments and private individuals to respond with food products, medicine and financial assistance. The momentum has already begun through the efforts of organizations like WHO and Muslim Aid, and through the contributions of private donors.

Hannah Pickering

Photo: Flickr

A cholera outbreak in Yemen was detected in October of last year. About 500 people have been killed by the outbreak since then. With more and more cases coming into the hospitals, a shortage of doctors, staff and medicine has arisen. With this shortage and increase in the spread, there has been concern for the treatment centers keeping up.

Cholera is a fatal bacterial disease of the small intestine, typically caused by an infected water supply. Yemen is a poor country already and has been in conflict for the past two years, making it vulnerable to an outbreak of this kind. Cholera in Yemen is of great humanitarian concern, especially with respect to its children.

Mothers have discovered their children sick with symptoms of cholera. It is only known that there is nothing to be done but what the treatment facilities must offer. Much like a young boy in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, who was admitted to the hospitals after having an ill night. The mother soon caught the disease, and they both lay in rooms next to each other in one of the treatment centers. Cases like this are commonplace, but organizations are trying to contain this expanding epidemic.

According to Save the Children, as this disease disrupts children’s lives, its hospice needs continue to grow. With this alarming spread, organizations like UNICEF and others are aiding the treatment centers. Mohammed Zaid, a doctor at one of the treatment centers, said they were “urging the international organizations to scale up their responses.” These essential organizations are working hard to combat cholera in Yemen.

They are providing lifesaving services, expanding treatment for children with malnutrition and are working toward supporting displaced families with healthy water and resources.

With weak immune systems and poor living conditions, it seems that these children have hardly anything to look to, like an opportunity for education and development. But the hope these children can look to is national organizations, in duty to give these emerging, poverty areas, vital nourishment. That is the hope the world can give to them, maintaining relief to subdue cholera in Yemen.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Yemen : Why the Country Is So Poor?
Poverty in Yemen holds one of the highest rates in the Arab world. Half of the population lives on less than two dollars per day.

The main reason for poverty in Yemen is a lack of basic resources, such as water, healthcare and education. Rural and remote areas make it physically, intellectually, economically and socially isolated from rest of the region.

Beyond this, Yemen faces may other problems as well. Most of the population does not have access to clean water and proper sanitation. Ten million people–nearly half of the population–go without enough food to eat. Child malnutrition rates are the highest in the world. Half of the children under the age of five are stunted. Girls often get married before the age of 15 and never receive a formal education. Illiteracy among women is currently at 49 percent. Yemen ranks 140th out of 182 countries on the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index.


Exploring Leading Causes of Poverty in Yemen


The poverty crisis is related to the violence and chronic hunger in Yemen. An 18-month civil war in Yemen has killed 10,000 people. It pushed the country toward a famine and increased the poverty in Yemen. Eighty percent of the population requires humanitarian assistance.

The civil war has made conditions difficult for economic growth. There are two internal conflicts in the country. The southern conflict is between the government and extremist religious groups called the Houthis. The north of Yemen faces a conflict between the government and Al Qaeda. This conflict has lasted for more than 10 years.

Government corruption and nepotism is also widespread, and government officials only elect relatives or those who are going to pay bribes. A lack of jobs even among graduates has forced young adults to the streets, leading to even more widespread poverty in Yemen.

Furthermore, the country’s infrastructure is very inadequate, and only 15 percent of the rural population is covered by the national electric grid. Transportation is expensive and the poor road networks obstruct travel.

The Gulf crisis led to the massive return of migrant workers who do not have an income or prospects of employment, further exasperating poverty rates in Yemen.

The United Nations World Food Programme delivers hope by working to fight poverty in Yemen. The organization reaches six million Yemenis with lifesaving food, meals for school children and sustainability projects such as rainwater conservation and irrigation. Ending poverty in Yemen will require the government to take responsibility of its citizens at the end of the civil war.

Aishwarya Bansal

Photo: Flickr

Thanks to an unprecedented U.N. Children’s Fund operation, five million Yemeni children received vaccinations against polio in early 2017. This record polio eradication campaign consisted of 40,000 people on mobile health teams going door-to-door in Yemen to reach the nation’s vulnerable children. The brave vaccinators courted danger by hiking over mountains, through valleys and across battle lines to reach the children in need. The children also received Vitamin A supplements to bolster their immune systems.

Vigilance is Critical

Despite the encouraging numbers from the vaccination efforts, continued vigilance is vital to prevent new cases. UNICEF‘s Representative in Yemen, Meritxell Relaño, echoed the importance: “In the last two years, more children have died from preventable diseases than those killed in the violence. This is why vaccination campaigns are so crucial to save the lives of Yemen’s children and to secure their future.”

The campaign couldn’t have come at a better time. Relaño indicated that the children in Yemen are especially vulnerable because the nation’s conflict is keeping them from adequate nutrition and healthcare.

Reza Hossaini of UNICEF  also reiterated the need for vigilance: “There is no question that progress to end polio is real and tangible. But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – until all children everywhere are consistently and routinely immunized against polio, the threat is there.”

Eradication on the Horizon?

Significant progress has been made since 1988 when UNICEF joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. At that time, there were 350,000 documented cases of the debilitating disease worldwide. These organizations hope to completely eliminate polio by 2019.

Their efforts have been working. By 2014, there were only 359 documented cases worldwide. More than 60 years after the first polio vaccine was developed by Jonas Salk, our planet is finally nearing total eradication of this devastating disease.

Gisele Dunn

Photo: Flickr

Crisis in Yemen
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is reaching new heights. There is a proxy war being fought between the Sunni Muslim state of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite Muslim state of Iran. More than 10,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed and roughly 2.1 million have been displaced.

According to the U.N., 80 percent of the population is in need of some form of humanitarian aid. There is a water shortage that may completely deteriorate in 2017. There are now 21 million people dependent on international aid to survive.

Factors Contributing to the Crisis

The Houthi uprising began in the wake of the Tunisian civil war in 2011. This was a major security concern for the Saudi government, as it shares its southern border with Yemen. Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, backed by Saudi Arabia and the U.S., was forced to resign from office in 2011. This occurred after widespread protests were held in opposition to his illegal business dealing and his amassed $60 billion. A U.N. expert panel stated in a report that, “Many have argued that the country’s spiraling debt and economic problems would be alleviated with a repatriation of these alleged stolen assets.”

Power was ceded to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in February 2012. Houthi rebels then took control of Sana’a, the capital city, through a string of terrorist attacks. Hadi fled the country.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen continued to worsen with a growing food deficit, increasing drought and terrorism concerns. Half of Yemen’s population was living below the poverty line, and almost half of the population was under the age of 18 and unemployed. Saudi Arabia led a U.S., U.K., and France-backed coalition in support of Hadi’s internationally recognized government against the Houthi rebels.

Former secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon announced that the U.N. had documentation of widespread violations of children’s rights in Syria that were committed as part of the Houthi child soldier recruitment efforts, as well as the child casualties from the Saudi airstrikes. Saudi Arabia threatened that if it were not removed from the report, they would cut off its funding to the U.N. and incredulously, the threat succeeded. This miscarriage of justice has hurt the U.N.’s reputation as an impartial mediator in the conflict.

War crimes are being committed on both sides as the humanitarian crisis in Yemen carries on. Unfortunately, these crimes will likely continue without reprimand or sanctions as Saudi allies, like the U.S., have vetoed the U.N.’s independent international investigation into these war crimes. This effectively kills any charges against the Saudi’s or Houthi rebels, endangering countless more children’s lives.

Joshua Ward

Photo: Flickr

Healthcare Crisis in Yemen Escalates
The healthcare crisis in Yemen was introduced in 2014, as rebel forces banded together following a long period of political unrest, corruption, unemployment and food insecurity. In its wake, the conflict has left a growing number of casualties and healthcare facilities unequipped to deal with the rising tides of people in need of medical attention. According to statistics released by the United Nations, over 6,800 people have been killed and 35,000 injured since the start of the Saudi-fronted coalition air strikes against the Houthi rebels in March 2015.

As the war in Yemen surpasses its first year and a half of violence, the healthcare has become more vital and more precarious. As of March 2016, 600 healthcare facilities were deemed nonfunctional because of conflict-related damages. These damages ranged from bombed buildings to a shortage of staff and supplies. Over 80 percent of the population, roughly 21 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance, many of which need medical attention. Meanwhile, Yemen’s healthcare is on the brink of collapse. Many patients need to be treated for bullet wounds, broken bones, blunt force trauma and various vascular injuries. Oftentimes, the issues medical professionals face is not singular in an individual. They could be up against multiple life-threatening injuries, all on the same body, all at once.

Consequences of the healthcare crisis in Yemen are far larger than the immediate wartime implications. With such a lack of resources and a climate of fear surrounding medical buildings, even basic medical needs are not being met. According to Pranav Shetty, a health coordinator with the International Medical Corps, “There are thousands of children going unvaccinated, terminally ill patients not being able to receive regular treatments, and pregnant women missing out on crucial check-ups.” This year alone, 10 thousand children are predicted to die of preventable diseases.

This is in part due to the violence faced by medical personnel at the hands of the Houthi rebels. The rebels attack hospitals, ambulance and medical staff directly, which often robs medical professionals of the opportunity to do their work or scares them out of coming to work entirely. Since the beginning of the crisis, 20 percent of all hospitals in Yemen have been rendered useless. Yemen was ill-equipped to deal with this dilemma in the first place. It is one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, with many of its citizens living below the global poverty line. Thus, in many respects, the healthcare crisis in Yemen is only just beginning. The health ministry is unable to purchase new supplies.

An unheard of amount of people are going unvaccinated for preventable diseases. The impact on mental health, specifically PTSD in the wake of the crisis, has yet to be measured but conjectures can be made that the outcome will not be good.

To meet the increasing need for medical staffers, hospitals have begun training local volunteers and medical students in basic emergency responses in exchange for small stipends. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) have begun stepping in and offering medical aid, particularly for malnourished children in the region. This is a step in the right direction, but more can be done. It will take aid from countries around the world and selfless individual effort to help alleviate the burden of the healthcare crisis in Yemen, and as a global team we are capable of making a change.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr

Comparing Gender Inequality Examples and Progress Across the GlobeIt is the time of year to reflect on achievements and the need for change. The World Economic Forum 2016 Report on the Global Gender Gap points to both.

Countries are measured on the following metrics regarding women and gender inequality: economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment, health, and survival.

The highest possible score is one for gender equality. The lowest possible score is zero for gender inequality. Rwanda has achieved a ranking of five. Pakistan and Yemen are 143 and 144 respectively out of a total 144 countries. Gender inequality examples are numerous in both Yemen and Pakistan.

Gender inequality leads to gender-based violence against both women and young girls affecting one in three females around the world, in the name of “honor killings”, public stoning’s, wartime rape, domestic violence and abuse. Increased conflict in Yemen highlights a correlation with marrying off child bride’s sooner. This is a longstanding human rights violation in Yemen.

Numbers from a survey of 250 community members conducted by UNFPA indicated 72 percent of child marriage survivors in North Yemen were married between the ages of 13 and 15. In the South, 62 percent were married before the age of 16. Child brides experience pregnancy complications and are more vulnerable to violence. They are expected to conceive within their first month after marriage.

Pakistan also experienced severe spikes in violence against women this past summer. Women died by burning, strangling, and poison. Women are vulnerable to early marriage, domestic violence and death by male family members who may be suspicious that they are unfaithful.

New legislation passed in October called the “anti-honor crime bill”. This marks progress; there will, however, remain obstacles between parliament and religious groups. For real change, all murders will need to be treated the same as a crime against the state.

True change for women living in vulnerable settings is possible. Protecting Girls Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act is a bill that was introduced in July 2016 that “… is critical to ensure that children, particularly girls, displaced by conflicts overseas are able to receive a quality education and that the educational needs of women and girls are considered in implementing U.S. foreign assistance policies and programs.”

Pakistan activists are taking action for change with a play on words to end violence against all women. The U.N. Women Pakistan’s new #BeatMe campaign challenges men to beat well-known women from Pakistan at things in which they excel. The campaign confronts physical abuse with female mountain climber Samina Baig. She is the only Pakistani woman to climb Mount Everest.

The campaign will focus on success stories of women from all walks of life. Pakistan’s #BeatMe campaign has advocacy components, legal services for survivors and intends to address a shift in social attitudes particularly among men and boys. The campaign’s long-term goals focus on opening a global dialogue about women’s rights and gender equality.

It has been twenty years since the Rwandan genocide where 100 million men, women and children died. Women extended their strength as mothers into the fields of construction and mobilization to rebuild their nation. Today women have a seat at the economic and political tables of power. This is why Rwanda ranks 5th this year for improving the status of women.

  • Fifty percent of Rwanda’s Supreme Court Justice’s are women
  • Girls attend public school in equal numbers to boys
  • Women can legally own property and pass citizenship to their offspring
  • Established businesswomen are leaders in the private sector
  • Rwanda ranks first in the world for women’s representation in elected lower house of parliament.

New laws are one factor in the Rwanda’s shift to a country where women hold a new place in society. These laws are strengthened by a paradigm shift in the collective thinking of the entire country.

Rwanda did not rebuild overnight. The strength of Rwandan women is a model for countries at war, where women are struggling to stay alive, and seek freedom from violence, a large stepping stone to education, political power and equal pay.

Addison Evans

Photo: Flickr

Education in Yemen
On August 13, 2016, a Saudi-led airstrike killed 10 children at a school in the country’s northern region, and all were under the age of 15. Unfortunately, children in Yemen have become accustomed to this fallout from the civil war that has raged within their country since March of 2015. Currently, education in Yemen has become a crucial subject for the country’s youth, who struggle to continue learning despite the war surrounding them.

Here are some features of what education in Yemen looks like for millions of children today:

  1. On any given day, the number of children in Yemen who miss out on school exceeds 2 million. Reasons range from lack of textbooks and chairs to the destruction and militarization of school buildings.
  2. Children in Yemen often face grave danger both in and out of class. Students have been killed on their way to school as well as while attending classes, raising questions within families as to the safety of pursuing education.
  3. Staying home, however, raises further concerns. The fear of child recruitment is very real — children as young as eight have been counted by the U.N. as some of 1,200 enlisted to fight in the conflict. Education proves an effective tool for keeping children from the violent arms of war.
  4. According to the U.N., more than 3,600 schools have closed in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict in March 2015. Bombings destroyed many of these buildings, while many others are now used as training facilities for military forces. UNICEF currently estimates that it needs $34 million for its Back-to-School campaign to help rebuild Yemen’s education system, which includes building restoration, training, textbooks and provisions.
  5. In the 14 years leading up to the conflict, education in Yemen saw an incredible period of growth and improvement. Yemen’s enrollment rate rose from 71.3 percent to 97.5 percent during this time, an incredible stride, according to The World Bank.
  6. In July 2015, UNICEF and Yemen’s Ministry of Education trained 50 teachers and social workers to help children deal with the psychological fallout of living in the country torn apart by civil war. Specialized training in psychosocial approaches offers a healing hand to children growing up in war zones and helps equip them with the tools to deal with the violence.

In the midst of such difficult times, both teachers and students have proven that education in Yemen is a valuable thing. Although a large number of children currently struggle to find ways to learn, their path is becoming increasingly clear due to the hard work and resolution of educators in their country.

Emily Marshall

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Yemen
Last October, photos of an emaciated 18-year-old girl, Saida Ahmad Baghili, circulated the internet. A quick glance at this shocking photograph explains why the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) is pleading for $258 million, which would fund food assistance for the hunger in Yemen problem until January 2017.

The WFP warns that Yemen is on the brink of famine. The 19-month civil war aggravated the inherent poverty in Yemen and worsened malnutrition for thousands of individuals including Baghili. Before the war, Yemen already had the Arab world’s lowest GDP per capita and 45 percent of its population were malnourished.

Slowly Moving Imports

Additionally, before the war, Yemen imported 90 percent of its food. Now, ships carrying food find it difficult to enter the country’s ports.

Online newspaper The Intercept explains that the Saudi-led coalition has enforced air and sea blockades on rebel-held parts of Yemen since March. The coalition allows only U.N. supervised flights and aid shipments to enter the country.

With conflict escalating and a shortage of food in local markets, prices of basic foods have increased. At one point in time, the WFP’s market analysis stated that the national average price of wheat flour was 55 percent higher compared to the pre-crisis period, which affects the hunger in Yemen problem a great deal.

The blockades also threaten  fuel needs for water pumps and generators in hospitals. Doctors Without Borders states that the restrictions on imports severely hinders medical workers’ ability to treat patients. Many Yemeni like Baghili are dying from basic diseases that are easily treatable.

The Saudi coalition denies the accusations and says it was implementing U.N. resolutions that aim to prevent weapons and ammunitions. They explained that the coalition gives aid ships immediate and regular permits to reach Yemeni ports, pointing to the opposition’s black market as the cause of their “humanitarian catastrophe.”

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that in August 2016 significant delays were experienced. The report attributed the delays to reduced operational capacity. In Seleef’s port, two vessels waited for berth an average of 45 days. Since December 2015, average delays in ships entering ports have increased. This could be why the WFP estimates it takes four months from the time they receive funds for the food to reach families who need it.

A Community’s Response 

Alex Potter, a photojournalist based in Yemen, shares how the Yemeni community pours out support for each other: neighbors invite displaced people into their homes, wealthier Yemenis donate trucks of water and friends visit to help with daily tasks. She said, “In Yemen if you see your neighbor needs something, you always share.”

Yet the WFP issued an urgent statement that resources are running out. While they reached millions of people with emergency assistance in March and July, they were still forced to split rations between more families to meet the growing need throughout this problem of the hunger in Yemen.

Baghili’s photograph further highlights a shocking reality where a teenager’s parents lack the financial means to help their severely malnourished daughter. Baghili only received treatment when charitable people pooled their funds together so she could receive proper medical attention.

Many countries and people have answered WFP’s call.  Perhaps we too can become like the charitable people whose donations save the lives of those like Baghili.

Andy Jung

Photo: Flickr

Conflict and Displacement in YemenA joint report released in August by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International organization for Migration (IOM) said an exorbitant amount of conflict and displacement in Yemen resulted from civil war — 3,154,572 people were displaced, over two million of whom remain in displacement.

Unfortunately, this is not the first armed struggle the nation has seen. Yemen has ancient roots as the crossroads of Africa, the Middle East and Asia but the modern Republic of Yemen is a relatively new state.

It was formed when the communist South Yemen and traditional North Yemen merged in 1990 after years of struggle. There has been plenty of conflict and displacement in Yemen’s 26 years as a nation.

The merger did not ease tensions between the two different groups of people cohabitating the land. A southern separatist movement called for secession in a short-lived 1994 civil war.

Violence erupted once more in 2009 when government troops and rebel forces began fighting in the north in an armed conflict that killed hundreds and displaced over a quarter million people.

Arab Spring uprisings in 2011 inspired a wave of protests that forced then-President Ali Abdallah Saleh to resign. Yemen’s history of unrest and turmoil made it an easily exploited place for militant groups like Al-Qaeda and Islamic State, further destabilizing the already conflicted nation. Yemen lapsed into another civil war in 2014 that rages on despite peace initiatives.

With the rebel Houthis overthrowing the Yemeni government prompting a Saudi-led counteroffensive, the fighting in Yemen has had grave humanitarian consequences. The U.N. designated the humanitarian emergency as severe and complex as those in Iraq, South Sudan and Syria.

“The crisis is forcing more and more people to leave their homes in search of safety,” said Ita Schuette, UNHCR’s Deputy Representative in Yemen. The report also added that displacement in Yemen increased by seven percent since April as a result of escalating conflict and worsening humanitarian conditions.

According to the figures displayed in the report, as the conflict continues, the average length of time that people are spending displaced from their homes has increased.

Some 89 percent of refugees have been displaced for ten months or longer. Cumulatively, due to conflict and natural disaster, 8 percent of Yemen’s population remains displaced.

Although the situation looks bleak, conflict and displacement in Yemen should improve. Thankfully, the international community is stepping up to provide assistance. The U.N.’s World Food Program is providing food assistance to some 3 million people through monthly distributions.

The organization is also progressively implementing commodity voucher programs through local suppliers. Wherever there is suffering and conflict, the international community will be there to do what they can to provide food to the hungry and shelter to those who cannot go home.

Aaron Parr

Photo: Flickr