An estimated 100,000 people have lost their lives or been seriously injured in Yemen’s half a decade long civil war, with scant evidence of an approaching end to what some have described as “interminable human suffering.”
The key adversaries are:
- the rebel Houthis now controlling much of northern Yemen and part of its capital city, Sana’a, backed by Iran, and
- Yemen government forces still occupying a substantial slice of country, supported by neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ( UAE) with U.S. support.
Helen Lackner of the European Foreign Relations Council focuses in a November 19 essay published by Asian Affairs magazine entitled “Global Warming, the Environmental Crisis and Social Justice in Yemen.” Ms. Lackner is an experienced on-scene observer of Yemen since 1970.
Summarizing her conclusions, she writes:
“While the current war is the direct cause of only a few of Yemen’s environmental problems, it is exacerbating these problems and injustice through the competition between external agents and war profiteers, to acquire land.”
Ms. Lackner adds: “This is the case in both Yemen’s urban and rural areas. Meanwhile, the long-term environmental problems, primarily water scarcity, deterioration, and climate change are all reducing the country’s already limited economic resources, as the poor lose and the rich gain.
“Unaddressed,” the University of London scholar concludes, “Yemen’s environmental problems will, within a generation, force millions of its citizens to become climate refugees, most likely to their neighboring states, Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE.”
NO APPARENT SOLUTION — BUT SOME SIGNS OF PROGRESS
As The Economist put it in an October 3 editorial: “The war in Yemen seems to play on in an endless loop. Atrocity follows atrocity. The displaced Yemeni government is backed by a Saudi-led coalition that bombs civilians. The Houthi rebels who occupy much of northern Yemen are backed by Iran. They even recruit children and fire shells indiscriminately into cities.” Efforts to make peace seemed to be going nowhere until last month.
On October 15-16, the Yemeni government and the Houthis released 1,061 captives in the largest prisoner exchange since the civil war began in 2014. Among those reportedly freed was Nasser Mansour Hadi, a brother of Yemen’s president captured early in the civil conflict.
United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council the exchange was an “airlift of hope.” He added that both sides remain in negotiations for a permanent ceasefire, which he hoped could occur by the end of the year. Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam agreed that the swap “brings hope for peace-building.”
According to the Muslim Times, the two sides had agreed two years ago to swap 15,000 detainees to pave the way for ongoing efforts to end the conflict. So exchanges have a long way to go before implementation of a lasting ceasefire.
YEMEN’S 21ST CENTURY FAMINE
There’s no time to waste if the civil war-wracked Arabian peninsula country is to be saved. British historian Alex de Waal calls Yemen’s famine “the world’s worst since North Korea in the 1990s, and the one in which the West’s responsibility is clearest… Britain has sold at least 4.5 billion pounds sterling in arms to Saudi Arabia and 500 million pounds to its ally, the UAE since the war began.
“The U. S. role is even bigger: Trump authorized arms sales to the Saudis worth $110 billion last May. Yemen will be the defining famine crime of this generation, perhaps this century.”
Last March, UNICEF estimated that 2,000,000 Yemeni children under five years old suffer acute malnutrition because of food shortages. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UNICEF and the World Food Program, 40 percent of all Yemenis are expected to suffer from acute food insecurity because of the war, floods, coronavirus and locust swarms by the end of 2020. The Chicago Tribune reports that so far this year, 50,000 Yemeni children have died of starvation or disease.
Time for international action, including the West and Yemen’s oil-rich neighbors is NOW.
As a 36-year veteran of the Voice of America (VOA), Alan Heil traveled to more than 40 countries a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, and later as director of News and Current Affairs, deputy director of programs, and deputy director of the nation’s largest publicly-funded overseas multimedia network. Today, VOA reaches more than 275 million people around the world each week via radio, television and online media. Read More