The world has a problem. Absent from the front pages of our newspapers and digital screens is one of the largest humanitarian crises in modern history. Often referred to as “The Forgotten War”, Yemen has been caught in the middle of violent conflict between the Houthi forces – an anti-government militant group – and the Saudi Arabian led coalition – a group of nine African and Middle-Eastern countries, of which the UK and US have provided intelligence and logistical support. In the past 3 years, widespread destruction has erupted across the country with bombing and shooting threatening the security of its people. This has driven the country into an emergency where 22.2 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, making up approximately 75% of the entire population.
Food supplies and clean water are scarce, precipitated by attacks on local infrastructure. Strategic aerial and naval blockades imposed by the coalition to stop Houthi military supplies has limited the Yemeni people from receiving even the most basic of goods. With 90% of Yemen’s food supply being reliant on foreign exports, these blockades have had disastrous consequences on the people’s access to food. Worsened by the deteriorating economy – with the Rial losing nearly 50 per cent of its value – affected families struggle to purchase food as a result. All of this means that Yemen is now struggling with one of the largest famines in history: an estimated 12 million Yemenis, including 2 million children, will be dependent on food assistance in 2019.
Diseases that have almost been eradicated from the country have reappeared, with outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria posing a threat to Yemen’s health infrastructure. Violence has led to the destruction of water and sanitation facilities, allowing cholera to spread quickly. Over a million cases of cholera have been reported thus far, meaning that Yemen is currently facing the world’s largest ongoing cholera outbreak. Furthermore, those who require medical treatment can’t afford it and with some 20% of health facilities having been destroyed, the health system is in a state of near collapse. This, amongst targeted attacks on civilian homes and buildings, contravene international law.
This atrocity cannot be ignored within campus. Therefore, charity societies on campus including Amnesty, Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children and Unicef have decided to collaborate on a week-long campaign kicking off on Monday 4th February, to shed light on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Some of the work of these NGOs are shown below.
Amnesty is working to stop the flow of weapons to Yemen. The UK and the US have made and sold weapons to Saudi Arabia that were then used to destroy schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in Yemen. These arms sales only fuel the ongoing conflict, and by stopping the sale of weapons, violations against civilians could be curbed.
Unicef has been tackling Yemen’s cholera outbreak with the improvement of sanitation and access to clean water. The water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) programme allowed 6 million people access to drinking water through the operation, maintenance and rehabilitation of public water systems. Save the Children is treating sick and injured children through over 150 fixed health facilities, 21 hospitals and five mobile health and nutrition teams. They are involved in the prevention of hygiene related health diseases with raising awareness. They also train health volunteers in the prevention and management of malnutrition.
MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières) are fighting against malnutrition in Yemen. Between January and October 2018, MSF hospitals and supported health facilities have treated 4,855 cases of malnutrition. With over 2,200 MSF staff working on-the-ground across 12 hospitals and health centres, they have so far treated 973,098 patients in their emergency rooms.
Please come along to our lunchtime stalls from the 4th of February to the 8th of February to donate and find out more. We are also hosting a charity dinner on the 5th of February and a speaking event on the 7th of February. Details can be found on our Facebook page: @humanitarianweek2019