Why Must Yemen Not Become a Forgotten Crisis Behind Ukraine?
With over 17.4 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and an additional 1.6 million anticipated to slip into emergency hunger levels, the country's hunger crisis is teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe.
Yemen is currently experiencing the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Four out of every five people require humanitarian aid, and the conflict has displaced nearly four million people. According to the United Nations, about 80% of Yemen's 30 million people need humanitarian assistance. Moreover, 360 000 children under the age of five are severely malnourished.
In the meantime, the fighting in Yemen is growing, with additional airstrikes in populated areas. People are terrified of violence, starvation, and diseases. Yemen is on the verge of famine for at least five million people. With over 17.4 million Yemenis facing food insecurity and an additional 1.6 million anticipated to slip into emergency hunger levels, the country's hunger crisis is teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe.
Furthermore, by the end of 2022, the number of people experiencing "catastrophic" hunger levels is expected to rise fivefold, from 31,000 to 161,000, bringing the total number of people in need to 7.3 million. In the first two months of 2022, UNICEF reported 47 children murdered or wounded in Yemen. Food insecurity also jeopardizes pregnant or nursing women, with 1.3 million suffering from acute malnutrition (UNICEF, 2022).
Mainly, the drivers of acute food insecurity and malnutrition in Yemen remain conflict and economic hardship, aggravated by the insecurity of humanitarian aid. The Ukrainian situation will exacerbate Yemen's increasing food insecurity. For example, 30 percent of Yemen's wheat imports come from Ukraine. Yemen has seen major import shocks due to the Ukraine conflict (Releifweb, 2022; IPC, 2022).
According to UN humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths, the conflict is already in its eighth year, and it is still going strong. The economy is in shambles. The availability of essential services is dwindling. Aid groups have been forced to cut back or stop providing food and health services due to a lack of funds since late last year. Because Ukraine keeps us very busy and is a significant issue, no other catastrophe must go unnoticed. Hence, Yemen must not be forgotten in the backdrop of Ukraine.
Significantly, Yemen is experiencing a grave humanitarian crisis due to seven years of war. Yet, ordinary Yemenis are still hoping for peace after seven years of destruction. Needs are expanding across Yemen, not just on the frontlines of conflict, highlighting that the war's systemic effects are becoming the primary concern. Since 2021, all parties to the conflict in Yemen have increased deadly attacks on civilians, with hundreds of people reported killed each month.
Millions of people have died due to the war in Yemen, which has wreaked havoc on the country's infrastructure and economy. Hospitals and schools have been bombarded, and half of the country's health services have been shut. As a result, unemployment is on the rise, and the cost of food and other necessities has risen beyond the grasp of low-income families.
Many people who have been displaced have had to escape four or even five times. This poses tremendous difficulties, especially for women and girls. Many women confront significant barriers to getting the health care, education, and nourishment they require and a higher risk of gender-based violence. The brutal war on Yemen, which has been raging since 2014, has resulted in one of the world's worst tragedies.
Import restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led coalition have exacerbated the terrible humanitarian situation. Fuel tankers have been delayed and diverted, major ports have been shuttered, and cargo has been prevented from entering seaports. Fuel for hospitals' generators and pumping water to houses has also been cut off. While doing humanitarian activities in Yemen, aid workers have been kidnapped, arbitrarily detained, and killed.
CEO of Islamic Relief Worldwide, Waseem Ahmad, has stressed, "Yemenis have been bombarded and driven from their homes for the past seven years, with starvation a persistent plague for many. As a result, hundreds of millions of people are on the verge of hunger. Yet, despite this crisis being one of the worst disasters of this century, it is hardly mentioned in the media.
It has been inspiring to witness the international community's compassion and humanity in responding to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. I genuinely hope that governments would respond in kind for Yemen's people. Ukraine needs funding, but it must come in addition to, not in place of, aid for Yemen and other crises. Unfortunately, the Yemen war is a forgotten and 'hidden' conflict, an orphan in the eyes of Western policymakers and media.
There is a rush to support Ukraine, but no compassion missions to Yemen, Gaza, Syria, or Myanmar. The situation in Ukraine is awful. However, the terror and misery in Yemen cannot be paralleled. Yemenis, Kashmiris, Palestinians, and others wait on the other side of the geopolitical divide for support that may never arrive, while international leaders rush to support the Ukrainian people.
Despite the world's increasing humanitarian needs, the people of Yemen must not be ignored. Over 20 million individuals rely on aid as their only means of survival. Now is not the time to take a step back; now is the moment to take a bold action forward. At this crucial moment, supporting public services and the economy is critical.
Most importantly, the international community must provide emergency assistance and establish independent monitoring and accountability for attacks, as well as intensify diplomatic efforts to end the tragic conflict and chart a path toward economic stability. In addition, international donors should commit to flexible, multi-year funding for Yemen's humanitarian response and expand support for local Yemeni organizations, which are at the forefront of the response and are frequently underfunded (Releifweb, 2022).