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Yemen: Humanitarian Catastrophe

Yemen: Humanitarian Catastrophe
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28 May 2016

Sumayya Omar | Pic: ForeignAffairs.com

The Yemen civil has been silently slipping away from mainstream media and thus our attention. Silence surrounding the conflict is a clear dismissal of the crises as 83% of the population continues to be in great need off international humanitarian assistance.

Yemen is off great strategic importance to the Middle East and Africa as the Hanish Islands of Yemen dominates the Bab al Mandab straight of the Red Sea. Yemen controls the access into the sea which links Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Palestine, the Sinai and the Suez Canal. The sea is used importantly for the transportation of oil into the region from the South to the North.

Furthermore the Red Sea is enriched with mineral deposits (zinc, gold, copper) and marine life. It is a key theatre for regional and international conflict. It is of no surprise if Middle Eastern and African states have political and economic ambitions of securing control over access into the sea with world powers like the US, China and Russia all exerting ‘influence’ over the matter.

A series of international reports from the United Nations, International Red Cross Association and Amnesty International have been conducted since the outbreak of civil war within the country.

On 25 March 2015 a civil war within the country took an international swing as a Saudi Arabian lead coalition launched airstrikes on Houthi rebels.

The Houthis, who are Zaidi Shias, supported the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who was overthrown in 2011 and replaced by the current president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The Houthis have been accused of being supported by Iran, an accusation that Iran has denied.

Amnesty International has noted: “Civilians are trapped in the middle – thousands of them have been killed and injured and a humanitarian crisis has spiralled.”

According to the UNOCHA (2015/2016):

  • The consequence of the war has left 21.2 million people in need and large scale destruction of infrastructure.
  • Restrictions on imports by the Saudi coalition has exacerbated the humanitarian crises as food shortages increase, coupled with the lack of clean water supplies and medical assistance.

According to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) (2015/2016):

  • Millions of people are internally displaced
  • Over 120 000 people have fled the county
  • 4 million people are food insecure (off which 7.6 million are severely insecure)
  • 3 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition
  • 90% of the food is imported, with the current restrictions on the importation and dilapidated infrastructure causing no access to food in some regions, severe shortages of food and abnormally high prices in food
  • 3 million people lack access to safe drinking water (damaged pumps, no sewage treatments and lack of fuel in the country limits the transportation of water supply to provinces)
  • 1 million people lack access to basic health care (600 of the health care centres are damaged from the war)

According to Amnesty International (2015/2016):

  • International Humanitarian Law (IHL) violations have been made by all parties involved in the conflict due to the attacks on the medical centres and workers, unlawful killing, abduction and arbitrary arrest on the civilians, the use of force (tear gas explosions, shelling of civilian areas), denial of freedom of speech and association (Houthi’s have closed down 27 NGO’s and make target attacks on peaceful protests). “The Huthi stooped to a dangerous new level of intimidation and violence to strike fear into anyone protesting their rule,” said Donatella Rovera, Senior Crisis Response Adviser at Amnesty International. “Testimonies reveal how protestors have been detained and tortured for days on end. The safety of all those who dare to speak out against the Huthi rule is on the line.”
  • In March 2016 AI blamed the United Kingdom and United States for fuelling the war due to the transferring of weapons into the region
  • Claimed the Saudi Arabia- led Coalition failed to establish an independent international investigation into the humanitarian abuses and violations.
  • Stated that the capturing of provinces by Houthi’s and the imposition of blockades in provinces of aid, medical assistance, food and water is increasing human deprivation and the ongoing cycle of human suffering.

Peter Maurer from the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2015 stated: “Yemen after 5 months looks like Syria after 5 years. Deputy Director of Amnesty International for Middle East and North Africa, James Lynch stated that: “The international community response to the conflict in Yemen is… utterly shameful”. If peace talks are failing and international delegations cannot forge peace, then we ought to do something about it.”

The actions of the international community should be twofold: Firstly we need to embark on an awareness campaign to educate and bring to light the atrocities of the war and criminalities made by parties. Protests calling for the end of the war should be held.

Governments need to apply international pressure on powers directly involved or implicated in the war and secure free access of the deployment of humanitarian aid and assistance.

The people of Yemen must know that we know their horrors and we are committed to provide relief.

We are living in the 21st century, where freedom and justice should be a living reality and not a written value residing on the shelves of our Parliaments, collecting dust and blood. Why should those who suffer from the horrid historical legacies of colonialism and imperialism be punished even more? They know no peace, not even in death.

Amnesty International Yemen Time-line:

  • 1990: The Republic of Yemen was declared through the unification of the state by the: Yemen Arab Republic in the North (Houthi’s) and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the South (Sunni).
  • 1994: Despite the unification of the states, contestation over resources and powers led to a civil war between the North and South. Demanding for the reversal of the unified state.
  • 2011: Internationally recognised President of Yemen, Addrabbuh Mansour Hadi, declared the National Dialogue Conferences Plans for Yemen as the new nationwide agenda towards ensuring Yemen as a federation of 6 regions (by February 2016). Despite the adoption of the plan, the Northern Houthi’s rejected it.
  • 2014: By September 2014, Northern Houthi’s stormed into the capital Sana’a, capturing the capital and placing President Hadi under house arrest (he later fled the country, seeking refuge in Saudi Arabia).
  • 2014: Civil war spread into the other provinces of Yemen. In November the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported an average of 43 civilian deaths a day, a rising death toll of over 5500 and 27807 civilian causalities.
  • 2015: By March 2015 the Saudi Arabian- led Coalition (of Arab and African States i.e. Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, Egypt) jointly intervened in the civil war between Northern Houthi’s and Southern Sunni’s.
  • 2015: By the end of 2015, the civil war halted as Peace Talks resumed in Geneva. Leading to a ceasefire (intention of immediate termination of the war). Sadly the ceasefire ended swiftly as infighting occurred between the groups.
  • 2016: Amnesty International called upon the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in February to impose an arms embargo on states transferring weapons into the region. A further call was made from the European Parliament for Europe to impose an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia (25th February), as well as the Dutch Parliament (15th March).
  • 2016: The United Nations Office (UNOCHA) reported on the Yemini crises, and estimated a total cost of $1.8b dollars for the reconstruction and development of the state and humanitarian needs of the people. An estimate of 21.1 million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. In April the UNOCHA issued a “Humanitarian Response Plan 2016”, calling on the international community of states, NGO’s and civil society to respond and assist with the implementation of the plan.
  • 2016: UNSC issued another resolution (2216- still standing) urging Houthi rebels to withdraw their presence from Sana’a and other Yemini provinces and adhere to the National Dialogue Peace and National Partnership Agreement of 2014.

 

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