BY: DR. DAVID BASSIOUNI
Yemeni citizens are caught in the crossfire of a proxy war that involves much more than an exchange of bullets. It is estimated that 80% of the domestic population have been forced into dire humanitarian need; some 18.5 million people are food insecure and 16 million have no access to safe, clean water and sanitation. Continued bombing of soft targets and vital infrastructure, increasing mortality rates across population demographics, denial of basic human rights to citizens, and the breakdown of basic social services have brought Yemen to the edge of collapse. As United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres stated, “The war in Yemen is now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people – three-quarters of the population – in desperate need of aid and protection.”
Elsewhere in the world, severe crises are usually beset with donor fatigue and lack of resources to provide humanitarian assistance. In the case of Yemen, the approximately USD $2 billion gap in funding could easily be met by the combined resources of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. So, one might ask, “Why it is that the humanitarian situation in Yemen is deteriorating at such a calamitous rate?” The success of effective response to any humanitarian crisis depends greatly on humanitarian workers having free access to victims for assistance. In the case of Yemen, the denial of humanitarian access to aid shipment for transportation and distribution is caused primarily by the brutal air, land and sea blockade imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. Ironically, the continuing indiscriminate and vicious bombing of the defenseless civilian populations by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia only ensures that citizens who escape famine and starvation meet their ends in the bombing raids.
The decision to break this stalemate lies mostly in the hands of one man, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. But, the cooperation of the Houthi leadership to observe and comply with a cessation of hostilities is as important in opening up humanitarian access. The world largely views the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the deliberate use of denial of food by the parties in conflict to break the back of their respective antagonists and win the war by proxy. The weaponization of vital resources, like food, is a vicious war strategy; this method unnecessary involves innocent civilians in conflict and degrades the value of human life to an unethical level.
Of recent, global public opinion, triggered by the assassination of the Saudi journalist, Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi, has been awakened to the Yemen crisis. Several nations, including the United States, are calling for the end of the bombing raids on the country. The suspension of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia has been applauded as a significant step toward the end of violence. A bipartisan bill aimed at ending all US assistance and involvement in Yemen is being advanced, after gaining overwhelming support in the Senate.
As this pressure mounts, and steps are taken towards negotiations for reconciliation and the peaceful resolution of the Yemen crisis, it is necessary to begin thinking of employable strategies for a peace agreement. The bombing has to stop, a ceasefire must be honored, and the blockades should be lifted. These steps are significant, but the real challenge lies in supporting crisis recovery.
With a questionable government, decimated population, lack of resources, and low resilience due to crisis fatigue, it is going to take an immense amount of time, resources, and international cooperation to bring Yemen back to life.
Dr. David S. Bassiouni is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Bassiouni Group, where he leads the company’s mission to empower global institutions and communities in the developing world through Sustainable Development, Strategic Public/Private Partnerships and Socially Responsible Investment. Dr. Bassiouni is also a United Nations Veteran, having served in the UN system for over twenty years in leadership roles with UNICEF, OCHA, DHA, UNDGO.
Photo Credit: Middle East Monitor
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