The Yemen Humanitarian Crisis

What is happening in Yemen?

Yemen. A desert country in the Middle East on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It has been severely impacted by a civil war and is one of the Arab world’s poorest countries. A war that was originally forecasted to last a few weeks, has gone on to last five years.

Yemen - Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Source: Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

At the root of the country’s devastation, lies a failed political transition. An Arab Spring uprising lead to Yemen’s long-serving president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, resigning his power in 2011 to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Mr Hadi, upon taking over the presidential role, came into difficulty with issues in the form of jihadist attacks, a separatist movement in the south, the continued loyalty of security personnel to the former president (Saleh), corruption, high levels of unemployment and food security.

The separatist movement in the south, known as the Houthi movement and championing Yemen’s Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, were involved in numerous rebellions in the previous decade which were against Saleh. The new president’s weaker spots were taken advantage of, as the Houthi movement took control of the northern heartland of Saada province and the neighbouring areas.

Many Yemeni civilians, including Sunnis, unaware of what the outcome of the transition would be, supported the Houthi movement, resulting in Sanaa, the capital, being taken over by rebels in late 2014 to early 2015.

Saleh, thought to have supported Houthis who originally fought against him, ensured their loyalty. The result was Houthis and security forces who were loyal to Saleh, attempting to gain control of Yemen and causing Mr Hadi to seek safety abroad in March 2015.

Concerned by the rise of a group associated with the military backing of Iran, Saudi Arabia and eight other states, launched an air campaign in an effort to defeat the Houthis, put an end to Iranian influence in Yemen and to restore the former presidents government. Support for the campaign came from the US, the UK and France and resulted in a coalition.

Coalition troops landed in Aden, a southern port city of Yemen, in August 2015, helping to drive the Houthis and their allies from most of the south over the following months. Since establishing a temporary home in Aden, Mr Hadi’s government has had trouble with the provision of basic services and security, resulting in the president remaining in Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis still hold Sanaa and the north-west of Yemen, while also maintaining a siege of the third city of Taiz and launching ballistic missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia.

Both Yemen and Saudi Arabia have large oil production industries. Two of Saudi Arabia’s eastern oil fields were attacked by air in September 2019, causing a disruption to approximately half of the kingdom’s oil production. Although the Houthis claimed to be responsible for the attacks, both Saudi Arabia and the US accused Iran of being responsible for these.

To make matters worse, territory has been seized in the south and attacks carried out in, specifically in Aden, by militants from al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the local affiliate of the rival Islamic State group.

A more restrictive blockade of Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition occurred when a ballistic missile was launched in November 2017 towards Riyadh. This blockade was claimed to prevent the smuggling of weapons by Iran to rebels, an accusation denied by Tehran. However, the restrictions lead to significant increases in the cost of food and fuel, ultimately causing major food insecurity throughout Yemen.

The Houthi and Saleh alliance also collapsed in November 2017, due to the occurrence of violent clashes in relation to the control of Sanaa’s largest mosque. Resultant, was the death of Saleh, caused by an operation launched by Houthi fighters to gain full control of the capital.

In June 2018, in an effort to put an end to the war, the Saudi-lead coalition launched a major offensive to capture the Red Sea city of Hudaydah, from the Houthis – its port being a critical lifeline for approximately two thirds of the population of Yemen. The UN warned against the occurrence of a famine, should the port be destroyed, ultimately resulting in a massive loss of life.

Six months on from fighting, a ceasefire was agreed on in Sweden (the Stockholm Agreement). However, there is a fear that the agreement will collapse, leading the fighting to resume.

In July 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a prominent ally of Saudi Arabia in the war, was the subject of international criticism due to its actions. The resultant action was a withdrawal of UAE forces from Yemen.

In August 2019, conflict occurred in the south of the country amongst Saudi-backed government forces and an allied southern separatist movement (the Southern Transitional Council (STC)), who had the support of the UAE.

Forces loyal to the STC, who had accused Mr Hadi of having links to Islamists, seized control of Aden and would not allow the return of the government cabinet, until November of 2019, when Saudi Arabia created a power-sharing deal.

It was hoped that the agreement would put an end to the war. However, in January 2020, there was an increase in fighting between the Houthis and coalition-led forces.

In April 2020, a peace deal signed with the internationally recognised government was broken, due to self-rule being declared by the STC in Aden. This peace deal would have resulted in the internationally recognised government governing the port city and southern provinces.

A unilateral ceasefire announced by Saudi Arabia occurred in the same month due to the coronavirus pandemic. This ceasefire was rejected by the Houthis, who demanded that air and sea blockades should be lifted in both Sanaa and Hudaydah.

The true cost to Yemeni civilians:

By March 2020, the UN estimated the deaths of at least 7,700 Yemeni civilians, in what is described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Many of these deaths are due to the Saudi-led coalition air strikes.

However, the death toll is estimated to be far higher by monitoring groups. In October of 2019, one such group stated that it had recorded more than 100,000 deaths, including 12,000 civilian lives lost because of direct attacks.

In 2019, more than 23,000 deaths were reported. Malnutrition, disease and poor health have also resulted in the loss of life of thousands more civilians. It has been estimated that 85,000 children who were suffering from acute malnutrition, died between April 2015 and October 2018. About 2 million children are acutely malnourished, including a figure of 360,000 children who are struggling daily to survive.

Approximately 80% of the population need humanitarian assistance and protection, while around 20 million people need assistance with securing food. Half of these people are one step away from famine.

As only half of Yemen’s 3,500 medical facilities are fully functioning, it is estimated that almost 20 million people do not have access to sufficient healthcare. While 18 million people do not have access to adequate levels of clean water or sanitation facilities.

On top of these statistics, the largest cholera outbreak ever recorded has occurred in Yemen, resulting in medics struggling to deal with the number of people needing treatment. The outbreak has resulted more than 2.2 million cases and 3,895 related deaths since October 2016. Yemeni civilians are also at risk of infection due to the coronavirus pandemic, which could potentially cause high levels of fatalities due to the lack of functioning medical facilities and PPE in those that are functioning.

In total, the war has displaced more than 3.65 million people from their homes.

How to help:

The following links will lead you to information on ways in which you can help those suffering in Yemen:

https://donate.unhcr.org/int/yemen/~my-donation (UNHCR)

https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/yemen-crisis (UNICEF)

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29319423

https://www.unicef.org/appeals/yemen_sitreps.html

Yoga for Mindfulness & Wellbeing

Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

When I truly began to take an interest in the environment and about the things that I could change in my life that would have less of an impact on the earth, I felt as if I needed more focus. It was as if I couldn’t fully invest myself in the present moment, as my mind was busy with a traffic jam of thoughts. It was chaos in there.

In order to become more focused, I began exercising regularly and eating well. A while ago, I ended up beginning a two hour daily commute for work. I allowed myself to fall into a habit of neglecting exercise and not eating as well as I should have. When I would return home from work I would make up excuses as to why I wouldn’t exercise, blaming the commute for how tired I felt, instead opting to lie on the couch, munching on treats and indulging in mindless tv.

Realistically, it was when lockdown occurred that I took a step back and wondered what I had been doing for a year. I had been treating my job as if it was the only thing that mattered, as if it was on a pedestal above all else. I would tire myself out in work, and even further on the commute home. At no stage did I even consider that my physical and mental health might be suffering, the two being interlinked. When Covid happened, even though I was still working as normal, I realised it was imperative that I make some changes in my life. These didn’t need to be changes that required a massive commitment, but ones that I could insert easily into my lifestyle and daily routine and that I wouldn’t dread doing.

I began by going on a 20-30 minute run after work nearby my home, in order to increase my energy levels for the rest of the night after the commute. I soon realised how unfit I had become, which actually motivated me to increase my fitness level. Feeling very adventurous, after a week or so, I introduced a 20 minute daily yoga session. Since beginning my yoga journey, I feel much more focused, clear-minded and calm. I am definitely a person who gets stressed quite easily, so I find that practicing yoga definitely helps me.

My experience with yoga has been a positive one. After time, you’ll become much more flexible and at ease during your yoga practice. At the beginning, I was stretching in ways I never thought possible. My utter confusion at being instructed to go into the ‘downward facing dog’ was no doubt plastered across my face (luckily nobody was present to see). I soon learned that ‘child’s pose’ would be my favourite (my inner laziness strikes again).

When beginning my yoga journey, I was lucky enough to have stumbled across Boho Beautiful – a yoga channel on Youtube which is perfect for beginner yogi’s and which is free and accessible here. Juliana is a wonderful yoga and meditation teacher and her practices are incredibly relaxing and peaceful. I’ve tried numerous yoga channels on Youtube, with this one being by far my favourite.

If you haven’t already introduced yoga into your daily routine, I promise that you can only benefit from doing so. All you need is yourself, a yoga mat and 20 minutes out of your day. A small commitment for something that’s both good for your body and mind.

Namaste ❤