Yemen famine

11 Jul 2020

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THERE is yet more grim news from Yemen, as the UN says the Arab state is once more on the brink of famine. According to the World Food Programme, around 10m people face an acute shortage of food and that the people’s suffering is “unimaginable”. Moreover, the country, battered by over five years of war, is ill-prepared to face the coronavirus pandemic. While the official tally says there are around 1,300 cases, experts warn the real number may be over a million, as Yemen’s fragile health infrastructure is in no shape to give accurate data. If hunger and disease were not enough, Yemenis live in the constant shadow of death either from the skies, in the shape of Saudi-led bombardment of Houthi positions, or fighting on the ground between multiple factions.

In the immediate future, the international community cannot let Yemen’s vulnerable people starve to death. While the Covid-19 situation has greatly complicated matters, funds, foodstuff and safe passage must be guaranteed so that immediate succour can be provided to Yemenis, along with medical aid. But in the long run, there is only one workable solution to Yemen’s myriad problems: bringing this horrific war to a swift close. While truces have been called, and broken, it seems the world community has lost interest in Yemen and its forsaken people. Saudi Arabia, the UK and the US have indeed pledged large amounts of aid at a recent donors’ event for Yemen. But if they really want to help the country, these states must declare an indefinite ceasefire, and stop providing the weaponry that is helping prolong the war. Moreover, the principal Yemeni actors — the government, the Houthis, the southern separatists — as well as their primary foreign backers including the Saudis, the Iranians and the Emiratis, respectively, must hammer out an agreement that can help end hostilities forthwith, ensure the integrity and stability of Yemen, and give Yemenis a chance to rebuild their shattered country.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2020