Yemen faces risk of Soviet-scale famine, UN warns

Yemen faces risk of Soviet-scale famine, UN warns

By Luke Vargas   
A child receives treatment at an EU-supported medical clinic in Yemen. June 13, 2018. Courtesy: Peter Biro/European Union
A child receives treatment at an EU-supported medical clinic in Yemen. June 13, 2018. Courtesy: Peter Biro/European Union

The U.N. and other humanitarian agencies say peace in Yemen is the only way to avert potentially millions of deaths from hunger.

UNITED NATIONS – A top U.N. official has warned that 13 million people in Yemen are at risk of starvation unless a Saudi military coalition immediately suspends airstrikes on the war-torn country.

“There’s no question we should be ashamed,” U.N. Resident Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande told the BBC, equating Yemen’s impending famine to those seen in Ethiopia in the 1980’s and the Soviet Union in the 1930’s.

Suze van Meegan, the Protection and Advocacy Adviser for the Norwegian Refugee Council in Yemen, described the severity of the crisis.

“What we see in our work is children who are getting skinnier and skinnier by the day, people whose hair is falling out, who have rashes on their skin, people with untreated wounds on their body, all of which are symptoms of malnutrition. And we hear stories from people about discovering neighbors and other members of the community who don’t have enough food to eat and are slowing wasting away.”

Hunger is far from Yemen’s only problem. An ongoing Cholera outbreak has claimed thousands of lives, millions are displaced from their homes and the aid group Save the Children warns of “long-term psychological damage to a generation of children” from a brutal and ongoing war.

Saudi Arabia and its allies – which include the U.S., U.K., Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates – have waged a ruthless campaign against Yemeni rebels for more than three years.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir claims that campaign is a “just war” in support of Yemen’s embattled government and has ignored calls to limit the military offensive despite ample evidence of the indiscriminate killing of civilians.

The slow burn of Yemen’s crisis – compounded by blockaded ports and crippled roads –makes it hard for aid groups to target their assistance.

Sylvia Ghaly is the Yemen Advocacy Director for Save the Children:

“The protracted nature of this crisis means we can neither intervene and consider it as an emergency – where we have to do things quickly and come and save lives and get things done in 12 hours, 24 hours, three months, six months and then we look at reconstruction and recovery – nor can we treat it as a development environment where poverty is what we’re dealing with and hence we look at longer-term programs that would enable people to build on their resilience.”

Other than donating to far-away charity organizations, what can individuals do to end the famine? Van Meegan suggested picking up the phone.

“They can do something about this beyond offer money. They can call their congressmen and ask why the U.S. is continuing to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.”

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