SANAA, March. 24 (Saba) –As Yemen’s war grinds into its fifth year with peace efforts stalling, the Royal Saudi Air Force is accused of frequent bombings of civilian targets and war crimes.
Four years of conflict have pushed Yemen, which was already one of the poorest Arab states, to the brink of famine, war has cut transport routes for aid, fuel and food, reduced imports and caused severe inflation, households have lost their incomes because public sector wages are not being paid and conflict has forced people from their homes and jobs.
The United Nations says about 80 percent of the population needs some form of humanitarian assistance and two-thirds of all districts in the country are in a “pre-famine” state, at the start of the war Saudi officials forecast that the war would last only a few weeks, but four years of military stalemate have followed.
The four-year-old war in Yemen is an expensive albatross for Saudi Arabia, the kingdom is bogged down in a quagmire that is damaging the country’s reputation.
In parts of the south, the Saudis have taken fairly strong control, like in al-Mahra province along the Omani border, where they are rumored to be considering building an oil pipeline to the Indian Ocean, they have brought in Wahhabi clerics. In other areas, like Aden, the Saudis have taken a back seat to Abu Dhabi, which has built a network of local militias more loyal to the emirate than to Hadi.
Militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the local affiliate of the rival Islamic State group (IS) have taken advantage of the chaos by seizing territory in the south and carrying out deadly attacks, notably in Aden.
In June 2018, the coalition attempted to break the deadlock on the battlefield by launching a major offensive on the Red Sea city of Hudaydah, whose port is the principal lifeline for almost two thirds of Yemen’s population.
UN officials warned that the toll in lives might be catastrophic if the port was damaged or blocked. The Houthis have not budged, Their leadership says the will not turn the ports over to the coalition’s control. Instead, the Houthis have reiterated their threats to attack Riyadh and Abu Dhabi with missiles.
In addition , the Houthis fire rockets, mortars and drones across the Saudi border. Riyadh said over 70,000 “projectiles” have struck the kingdom in the last four years.
The White House has stuck behind the Saudis’ war and especially its commander, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, despite reports that he has been using a hit squad to liquidate his enemies for years, including Jamal Khashoggi, the Trump administration is firmly behind the crown prince ,the administration provides crucial diplomatic support and, most importantly, the critical supply of spare parts, munitions and technology to the Saudi air force.
The UN says at least 7,025 civilians have been killed and 11,140 injured in the fighting since March 2015, with 65% of the deaths attributed to Saudi-led coalition air strikes.
About 20 million need help securing food, including almost 10 million who the UN says are just a step away from famine, almost 240,000 of those people are facing "catastrophic levels of hunger". More than 3 million people – including 2 million children – are acutely malnourished, which makes them more vulnerable to disease, the charity Save the Children estimates that 85,000 children with severe acute malnutrition may have died between April 2015 and October 2018.
The war has also displaced more than 3.3 million from their homes, including 685,000 who have fled fighting along the west coast since June 2018.
“Children did not start the war in Yemen, but they are paying the highest price,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned in a speech in February, stating that 360,000 children under 5 were suffering from severe acute malnutrition. He also cited what he called a “credible report” that placed the number of children under 5 who have died of starvation since the war began at more than 80,000.
In 2018, we provided more than 333,000 healthcare consultations in Yemen—one-third of them for children under 5—and operated more than 60 sites for managing nutrition. At the onset of 2019, our teams based in the capital city of Sanaa, the southern port city of Aden and Ibb (located between the two) combined to support more than 75 primary healthcare centres and mobile medical units, five nutrition stabilization centers and four secondary care hospitals in seven of Yemen’s 23 governorates. In many cases, our support is all that enables critical healthcare services to continue in a nation where the care system is largely broken.
To counter the growing negative impact of the war and infectious diseases on children, our teams engage in the integrated management of childhood illness, immunization, reproductive healthcare and WASH services.
In 2019, we are increasing our humanitarian response in an attempt to keep pace with needs that are growing at an alarming pace: we are adding mental health and psychosocial support programs as a new component to our response and training national staff to assume greater responsibility as demands grow.
Other UN officials working in Yemen frequently draw on an equally heartbreaking statistic: every 10 minutes in Yemen, a child under 5 dies of entirely preventable causes.
“Yemen now risks losing its young generation to a vicious cycle of violence, displacement, poverty and illiteracy,” declared the UN in a list of “key messages” about the country’s plight that it released ahead of a high-level pledging event to raise funds for humanitarian relief efforts to help Yemenis in need.
Sadly, war, poverty and malnutrition are only part of Yemen’s burden as it struggles to survive. In 2017, the country experienced the world’s largest outbreak of cholera in recent memory, with more than 1 million suspected cases reported before it finally ebbed early in 2018. At the height of the 2017 outbreak, we operated about 100 treatment facilities in seven governorates, trained health workers and hundreds of community health volunteers on the treatment and prevention of the disease and provided key medical supplies to facilities we supported.
Pockets of new cases are still being recorded, with Yemen’s Department of Health and Population reporting 6,718 suspected cholera cases and eight related deaths during a recent week. Smaller but equally worrisome outbreaks of diphtheria and measles were also reported during the first half of 2018 as living conditions continued to deteriorate.
With no clear path to peace on the horizon, the violence and suffering continue into a fifth year, with health facilities reporting more than 70,000 civilian casualties directly caused by the war through October 2018. 80% of the population is in need of outside assistance for their survival, the economy has all but collapsed and public services—including more than half of the country’s health facilities—have ceased to function. Those that do keep going survive largely on outside assistance.
In short, Yemen has become the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. And, as so often happens in times of violence and crisis, children have borne the brunt of this human catastrophe.
Tragically, there are growing concerns that Yemen may soon become the latest exception to this trend.
Written by Mona Zaid
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