Humanitarian Crises in the Midst of a Pandemic

The Present and Ongoing Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen

Raina Carfaro, Scarlet Staff

Currently, the climate in America is unsettling to say the least and it makes sense that in the past year or so we have been more introspective than usual when it comes to crises. We have plenty of problems of our own this year and people only have so much mental energy and rage to contribute to the void. The fight against systemic racism is only growing despite contentions growing hostile everyday and partisan divides becoming more polarized.

The pandemic has taught us where people’s priorities and loyalties lie: with the community or to themselves. This has heightened the tension of every debate and conflict that occurs. We are afraid. This election is the fight of our lives. It is okay to take time for yourself and unplug from the news for a bit. But even in all the chaos, we must not forget that while we too are in crisis some parts of the world are suffering from a calamity we can only imagine.

Yemen is facing the largest humanitarian crisis of our time. Since 2011, Yemen has been a hellscape suffering under an ever escalating civil war. Already a deeply divided nation, with the Arab Spring to religious insurgencies to al-Qaedan violence, Yemen has been tumultuous for decades with no conclusion in sight. The political instability is provoked ever more so by the severe water insecurity that threatens lives daily and fuels frequent deadly land disputes.

The country is a battleground for an unending conflict, and children are suffering the worst of it. More than 24 Million people or 80 percent of the population are in need of some form of aid, with 12 million of those being children. Two thirds of the population are at risk of starvation this year. Every year, there are 1.8 million children suffering from malnutrition and 400,000 of those children suffering a life threatening malnutrition. The majority of the worst children are in the most war torn areas where active violence wages and causes the destruction of homes, schools, and hospitals. Ultimately, children have no access to school or healthcare and are dying at alarmingly high rates.

Beginning in 2017 Yemen has suffered the worst Cholera outbreak the world has ever seen, infecting more than 2 million people and killing thousands. Not only are they still not fully recovered from the severe damage done by the epidemic, but on top of that the COVID-19 pandemic has escalated the humanitarian crisis to an uncontrollable and unprecedented level. The wars have caused millions to evacuate their homes and live as refugees with unreliable access to resources or healthcare treatment.

Water is a precious commodity in Yemen and it is in short supply, as well as basic sanitation materials that would keep health care workers safe. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “Only half of health facilities are functioning, and many that remain operational lack basic equipment like masks and gloves, let alone oxygen and other essential supplies to treat the coronavirus”. Health care workers go underpaid and are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The coronavirus infection will continue to ravage the country as people lack access to basic resources like clean water or shelter, much less protective equipment that might stop the spread of the virus. Presently, there is no unified government that is offering aid, refuge or guidance. As the pandemic has dealt heavy blows globally, nations who usually would be providing aid to Yemen are instead more focused on their own people domestically. Refugees are unable to gain asylum due to travel restrictions and countries closing their doors, forcing them to stay in harm’s way.

Children are starving and elders are sick and dying as bombs shake the buildings where they sleep. Although COVID-19 has dealt each nation different challenges, the worst suffering are the people who were already vulnerable and those who are unable to shelter in place, lack food, and clean water. The pandemic has challenged us to open ourselves up to the rest of the world and share in a mutual goal of healing and preservation. We are not suffering alone, we are not special in our crises, and we cannot forget those who are being left behind. We must each do what is in our abilities to keep ourselves safe while also providing aid to others with far less autonomy than ourselves.