Yemen is the corner of the Arabian Peninsula, located directly next to the Red Sea, making it both a historical and modern port of trade. In the ancient world, Yemen was the source of many precious spices, aromatics, and coffee (Wenner and Borrowes). In May 1990, North Yemen (Yemen Arab Republic) merged with South Yemen (People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen) to become the current Republic of Yemen. Since this union, the country has faced, “divisions based on religion, tribalism, and geography…” (Wenner and Burrowes).
Yemen, quoted by the International Crisis Group as “the world’s worst” humanitarian crisis, has been experiencing an ongoing civil war that has caused “severe acute food insecurity” according to a report by the UN (IPC Acute Food Insecurity Analysis: Yemen 1). The Yemeni civil war began late 2014, when the country was overthrown by Houthi rebels, but the war-causing issues were years in the making. Protests broke out during the rule of previous president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, attempting to force him out of his 33-year term (Wintour).
After violent protesting, there was a transfer of power in November 2011 to the vice-president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi. During President Hadi’s rule, the leader failed to deal with many problems ranging from attacks from jihadists, corruption, and food insecurity (BBC News). In late 2014, The Houthi movement, loyal to former president Saleh, took control of Saada province and neighboring areas. In 2015, Hadi was forced to flee abroad, and thus began the civil war in Yemen. Now exists a war between President Hadi’s government and the rebel Houthis.
The civil war was predicted to only last a few months but was further powered when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) began bombing and blockading Yemen in attempt to ensure that their takeover wouldn’t continue to spread to their land. This extreme violence caused and continues to cause civilians to seek shelter. Yemenis’ need to shelter themselves is one cause to their inability to access food. Similarly, according to a report by the World Food Programme, “Yemenis struggle… to find enough clean water for cooking and cleaning” (5).
Their food insecurity finds its causes in many different arenas that all seem to intertwine with one another. The cycle appears as follows; violent and unsafe conditions to attain food (due to civil war), economic collapse causing the food costs to greatly increase, decrease of domestic food production, and low access to clean water (World Food Programme). According to the UN nearly 16 million Yemenis don’t have enough food. Other diseases have broken out during the war and the cases have continued to increase. In a report from UNICEF of Yemen’s Humanitarian crisis they state that, “Between January and August 2019, there have been 617,317 Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD)/Cholera suspected cases and 844 associated deaths,” (UNICEF 1). The threat of Cholera and malnutrition on top of the violent conflict has made efforts for relief difficult to attain.
In December of 2018, a fragile ceasefire began in and around the port city of Hudaydah with signing of the historic Stockholm Agreement. This ceasefire was meant to act as a steppingstone toward ending the war and moving toward relief for civilians. Over the years, the United States has supported the Saudi blockades and aided them in bombings that have been devastating for the people of Yemen. In order to aid Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, outside forces must make ending the war a greater priority than all other distractions and according to an article from Aljazeera titled “Yemen war: 5 years since the Houthis’ Sanaa takeover,” the United States has been in talks with the Houthis about how to do end it.
In September 20, 2019, Houthi rebels announced they plan to halt all attacks on Saudi Arabia in effort to end destructive conflict. Many are on the brink of death and in need of outside assistance and Saudi Arabia’s blockades have been a core stoppage in the receipt of outside help for Yemeni civilians. The blockades have also stunted Yemen’s trade systems, which has allowed the prices of goods in Yemen to skyrocket. If the Houthi rebels are truly moving toward peace, this could result in Saudi Arabia possibly reopening their blockades and making monumental strides toward ending the 5-year long war and their grave humanitarian crisis.
Looking forward, the tensions between the Houthis, the Hadi-loyal government, and Saudi Arabia remain high. Moreover, the neglect and assistance in Saudi-led attacks of several countries has played a large part in creating the many layers of Yemen’s current crisis. Unfortunately, the conflict in Yemen has been stoked by the U.S. during both Obama’s and Trump’s administrations, but there are congress members looking to find ways to work around presidential relations to Saudi Arabia. If aid of weaponry and war efforts is to cease from majorly influencing countries, such as the U.S., there may be promise of a slow but sure end to this relentless humanitarian crisis in Yemen.