The health and the humanitarian issue in Yemen

Written by K. Jonuška


Dozens of schools and hospitals bombed. Foreign Air Forces are carrying out deadly attacks. The political chaos has created a vacuum that is used by groups like the Islamic State, and the areas that are being swarmed and controlled by rebels do not get the desperately needed help. One might think that this is about the devastating Syria, but it is about Yemen, where the civil war, according to the United Nations, caused a real humanitarian catastrophe. Unlike in the case of Syria, the world basically ignores the conflict in Yemen that requires aid for millions and many communities are on the verge of hunger. This is why this conflict is often referred to as a forgotten war, journalists Hakima Almmar and Angela Dewan say in CNN. According to him, the country's health system has completely collapsed, many children are dying in silence, and medical institutions are constantly being attacked by the air.



1. Roots of the conflict


Arab spring

After the 2011 revolution in Tunisia, protesters in Yemen demanded the withdrawal of the US-Saudi-backed autocrat Ali Abdullah Saleh. It is believed to have accumulated 60 billion dollars in his management time. Saleh finally gave power to his deputy, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, however, conflict was far from over. As Hadi struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by jihadists, a separatist movement in the south, and the continuing loyalty of security personnel to Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity. After the terror acts in Sana and increased fears because of lack of food, the Houthi rebels from the north invaded the capital. Ali Abdullah Saleh has joined the rebels. Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi has fled the country when rebels approached the city of Aden. He asked for other countries to support him. Saudi Arabia answered the call and thus 2015 In March, a Saudi-led coalition started bombing the positions of the Houthi by supporting Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.


Leadership questions

The war in Yemen, and the humanitarian crisis it has inflamed, is usually thought of as Saudi-led and controlled. But the reality is more complicated, and involves a major role by the United Arab Emirates. As a key member of the Saudi-led coalition, the UAE has focused its intervention in Yemen on the southern and western Yemeni coasts, where UAE Special Forces have allied themselves with various local powerbrokers in order to retake territory seized either by the Houthis or Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Unlike Saudi Arabia, the UAE has sought relationships with southern separatist groups and has nominally distanced itself both from Yemen’s main Sunni Islamist party (Al Islah) and from President Hadi himself. The UAE has lost more than 100 soldiers in the Yemen operation, to date. The Houthi began as a theological movement preaching peace, but now find themselves at the canter of an international conflict. For over a decade, the Houthi (who represent Yemen Shiite Muslim minority) had been fighting the government and Saudi Arabia. However it grew as a large-scale movement after the Arab spring. When the rebels occupied Sanaa in 2014 they were supported by many young frustrated Yemeni people - including even those who belong to the Sunni majority. Yemen's Shia Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, have been fighting with President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi troops since 2014. Sunni Saudi Arabia-led military coalition since March 2015 supports presidential forces. From that period, more than 10,000 people have been killed during the conflict. The UN is talking about the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world.


2. The forgotten war


Lack of instruments

Checkpoints that are managed by different military forces have prevented the transportation of emergency medical supplies to hospitals, so people do not even receive emergency medical assistance. After the destruction of Sana's runway, countless people were in danger. Country’s population being forced to drink contaminated water when children who could be rescued are killed. Médecins Sans Frontières require all the sides of the conflict would provide a secure and reliable infrastructure to deliver the necessary humanitarian aid. It calls for the cessation of attacks on vital objects and for the Yemen civil aviation authorities to be able to arrange airports for humanitarian assistance. Hospitals are rapidly running out of drugs and medical supplies, and medical facilities become targets for combat. Due to lack of fuel, employees cannot come to work on time. Medical staff is forced to retreat and look for safer areas with their families. Due to fuel shortages, ambulances cannot function at full capacity, even the reservoirs of hospital water supplies become targets. More than 600 injured, half of them hospitalized. The main logistical infrastructure, including airports, seaports, bridges and roads, have been disrupted. This has a significant impact on the population. The humanitarian situation in the country has become obsolete. And the situation is getting worse...



The Red Cross Committee has been able to reach out to key health care facilities in a country where risk aversion has been reduced and the reception of victims has already been renewed. The organization supplies bandages, disinfectant fluids, stretchers, crutches and medicines to over 15 country hospitals based in Sana'a, Saada, Ma'rib and other provinces. The ICRC team of surgeons have already undergone hundreds of operations, improving hospital care for healing patients. The lack of information on the conflict seems to reflect the poor interest of the international community in what is happening in this country. The war in Yemen is still regional conflict, as no other country has shown significant international support. Neither Americans nor the United Kingdom have any strategic interests in Yemen, so they decided to support Saudi Arabia. In Yemen, the most important thing for them is to ensure that Saudi Arabia can achieve its goals and maintain a certain stability in the Persian Gulf.


3. Important questions overshadowed by bombs


Finding a way out of the current situation in Yemen seems extremely difficult. As British journalist and Middle East expert Brian Whitaker points out, the UN plan does not seem optimistic. The expert reminds that the Persian Gulf States, which are left to shape the democratic future of Yemen, have no democratic traditions. In addition, democracy is a "state" that is first and foremost a state, and the state's "statehood" (which is lacking in Yemen), often determines whether that democratic regime will last longer or shorter. Previously used rhetoric "without security there is no development" did not help to the country in the past. Yemen, instead of investing in the country's infrastructure, tried to arm, but some of the armaments seem to be now in the hands of activist groups. It should not be forgotten that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) unit is active in Yemen, and the Islamic State has recently launched attacks. Houthi declares hostility to both of these groups, making them potential Saudi Arabian and US allies, and the struggle against the Houthi in this sense appears to be like a dead end. Yemen is the poorest Arab country and one of the most poor in the world. It is hard to imagine how any political compromise can be reached without which Yemen can neither be a country nor a federal entity. And it is even more difficult to imagine how such a compromise is expected to be achieved by bombing the fragile infrastructure of the country and deepening the humanitarian crisis.




The question is: why do we not hear and know about such a long, difficult and cruel war? One reason for this may be the lack of independent sources of information, as the Yemen Government does not allow journalists or humanitarian organizations to go to the war zone. But perhaps the more important reason is that no one wants to know about this war. It is not good to disseminate information or interfere in the conflict with Western states, especially the United States of America. It is possible to compare how much was said about the protest movement in Iran when the interests of the US and Western countries coincided with the protesters goals. And in this case, the United States most important interest is the unity and stability of the Yemen state, which is needed to halt the activity of jihad fighters. Therefore, Western states seem to support the Yemen government's propaganda aimed at reducing the extent of the Houthi uprising and its consequences. In addition, Western countries are involved in the Middle East Cold War between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is manifested in every conflict in the region. The rebels are convinced that Saudi Arabia is providing military assistance to the Yemen government, which accuses the rebels of accepting Iranian support, although no of the sides can provide any evidence. Therefore, it is not good for Western countries to remind the Yemen Government that blind repression against the people is contrary to human rights or to the catastrophic situation of war refugees. Such a situation of continuing warfare is particularly favorable for Yemen jihadists, which will eventually damage US interests in the region.


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