As of right now the world’s largest humanitarian crisis is not in Syria or Somalia, instead it is in Yemen. Since march of 2015, a war has been fought between the Saudi-led coalition, and the Houthi rebels for power over Yemen.
Continuous air strikes have devastated Yemen’s key infrastructure, and opened the gates to malnutrition and poor sanitation. According to the WHO and Al Jazeera, these air strikes have resulted in the famine of 17 million people, lack of clean water for ⅔ of Yemen’s population, and the spread of cholera to 500,000 Yemenis.
After the Arab Spring reached Yemen in January of 2011, it took 11 months for then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh to be abdicated and all power went to Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Then, in 2014 shia Houthi rebels aided by yemeni military members loyal to Saleh, attacked the capital and pushed out the government of Hadi. Feeling threatened by the Houthi rebels encroaching on their border, Saudi Arabia created a military coalition consisting of the Gulf Cooperation Council states (with the exception of Oman), Egypt, Sudan, and is backed by the U.S. and the UK.
Since the start of the military campaign launched by Saudi Arabia in 2015, repeated airstrikes have not pushed Houthi rebels out of the territory that they occupy in the west. Instead, many Yemeni citizens have been injured or killed. A primary effect of the airstrikes is the destruction of key infrastructure that many Yemeni citizens were dependent on, and, as reported by the New York Times, crucial seaport and important bridges as well as hospitals, sewage facilities and civilian factories have been destroyed.
The saudi-coalition shut-down the Sanaa airport for a year, which in addition to the destruction of the seaport makes it extremely hard for humanitarian aid to reach those who truly need it.
The combination of destroyed infrastructure and wounded citizens were not the only factors which allowed the cholera outbreak to spread as far as it did. Yemen’s administration has not paid any of its civil servants for more than a year, and this includes doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who staff hospitals in the area.
The failure of sewage systems, and the pileup of garbage across Yemen, has resulted into a breeding ground for the spread of Cholera. Citizens have been forced to drink unsanitary and dirty water from polluted wells.
In most western nations, the cholera is easily treatable with increased fluid intake, or antibiotics if severe, but Yemenis who barely have access to water, do not have the supplies or food to improve their health conditions.
The crisis is still ongoing and until an internationally recognized body such as the UN can mediate a peace treaty or end of conflict, the outbreak will continue to spread rapidly across Yemen.
Written and edited by Nicholas Terryn (’18)