Yemen is being destroyed by a man-made humanitarian crisis. Already the poorest country in the Middle East, over 80 percent of its population is in need of basic assistance due to armed conflict and a skyrocketing cholera epidemic sweeping over large war-torn regions of the country.
The cholera outbreak has spread to an estimated half a million people, or around five thousand per day, half of them children. It has claimed the lives of about 2,000 people since April.
“This is the world’s worst cholera outbreak in the midst of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. In the last 3 months alone, 400,000 cases of suspected cholera and nearly 1,900 associated deaths have been recorded,” executive directors of World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a joint statement.
Cholera, a water-borne disease, is easily treated with clean water, sanitation, replenishing fluids, and good nutrition. But because of a debilitating war that’s lasted three years and counting, a disease that could so easily be cured has now taken the lives of many. Around 7 million people in Yemen are facing famine while close to 18 million are not sure where their next meal will come from.
Before the war began, Yemen imported 90 percent of its food, mostly from the port of Hodeida. The Saudi-led coalition, backed by the United States (U.S.) and the United Kingdom (U.K.), is blocking the food from getting to the port while the Houthi-Saleh led coalition is blocking civilians from receiving food on the ground.
The Saudi-led coalition has carried out dozens of unlawful airstrikes hitting hospitals, a food factory, prisons, trucks transporting food, a funeral, a wedding, schools, and recently a hotel. All of these have shamefully targeted and killed civilians, often women and children, and displaced thousands.
Internationally-banned cluster munitions were found in at least 16 of these attacks. And although Saudi Arabia and Yemen are not honoring this ban, the U.S. and the U.K. are supposedly doing so. Yet, these cluster munitions and other weapons used by the coalition were bought from both the U.S. and the U.K. The sale of these cluster bombs should be illegal if they are banned. The U.S. and U.K. have been privy to the Saudi coalition targets and trained Saudi soldiers, in essence using the bombs themselves, making them guilty of war crimes.
Medical attention is scarce as 600 hospitals have been destroyed; health workers are hard to find as there is no money to pay them. Houthi-Saleh forces have intimidated civilians with military personnel, blocking access to care.
The U.S., U.K., France, Spain, Canada and Turkey had a combined 5.9 billion U.S. dollars worth of arms transfers to Saudi Arabia between 2015 and 2016, including drones, bombs, torpedoes, rockets and missiles. With the extent of civilian casualties, the deals make these countries implicit in crimes against humanity.
The U.S. has had repeated opportunities to take a stand against Saudi Arabia but has backed down, sealing a $115 billion dollar arms deal under then-President Obama, and now a $110 billion dollar deal under President Trump. The deals have passed despite knowledge of the death and continued harm these arms have caused to civilians.
Human Rights Watch and 62 other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have asked the United Nations Human Rights Council to create an international inquiry into human rights abuses and war crimes committed by those involved in the conflict in Yemen.
Without the flow of weapons into Yemen, the war would not be sustainable. Until the international community acts to stop this, Yemen and its people will be massacred either by hunger, disease, or bloodshed. It is imperative that an inquiry is made, highlighting the crimes against humanity, shaming all parties involved, and demanding responsibility and accountability of those who profess an adherence to international laws of war.
The people of Yemen are under siege. The clearest way to save the people, stop cholera from spreading and protect the few resources they have left is to end the war.