- Dhruv Nilkanth
YEMEN: A COUNTRY IN MULTIFARIOUS CRISES WITH NO WAY OUT
Earlier this year, multiple media reports regarding the crisis in Yemen appeared and soon, it was trending on social media. Various NGOs and IGOs around the world were requesting donations to help alleviate the human crisis in the southernmost country on the Arabian Peninsula. Yemen is being ravaged by an extremely bloody and chaotic civil war for the past 6 years now, but that's not the biggest problem for the 28 million plus population in the country, which is in the grip of the worst humanitarian crisis amid a global pandemic. What exactly is the ground situation in Yemen? Is the war the only problem of the common people? Is there any way out of this crisis in the near future? Even if it is to bring an end to the war, what lies ahead for this country? These questions about what could be the future of this country and in which direction is it heading will be the main focus of my dispassionate analysis of the quandary Yemen finds itself in.
Following the conclusion of the civil war in 1994, unified Yemen found some stability barring minor internal conflicts and at the same time experienced growth under the authoritarian president Ali Abdullah Saleh for the coming decade and a half. In 2011, a simultaneous revolution known as the Arab Spring broke out across numerous Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries in order to bring down increasingly oppressive regimes and counter worsening living conditions. In Yemen, this anti-government charge was led by the Houthis which forced Saleh to succeed his power to his long-standing vice president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Unfortunately, Hadi faced immense rebellion and was unable to put an end to the revolution, thus, leading to another civil war cropping up in 2014 which would lead to a variety of problems which we see today and bring Yemen under their darkest hour in history. The Houthis ceased control of the capital city Sana'a and forced the internationally recognised government of Hadi to flee to the port city of Aden. The former being backed by Iran and the latter by Saudi Arabia with external support from the US and the UK. In this period, strong militant groups, namely the Al-Qaeda and later the Islamic State captured territory in central and eastern parts of Yemen. In 2017, the setting up of a Southern Transitional Council backed by the UAE saw Hadi's government forced out of Aden. Today, this war has led to political turmoil with no group possessing the ability to lead unified Yemen, but more importantly, this war has led to the already fragile economy and healthcare system of the country to collapse. Food shortage and water scarcity have ruined the lives of average citizens even more. Malnourishment and poverty have gripped the majority of the population and while those with guns fight for power, those on the ground fight for life.
CRISIS AFTER CRISIS
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reports from September 2020, more than 24 million of the people require humanitarian aid while 14 million of them are in its acute need. Inflation and currency depreciation have led to food shortages and almost 3 million people will face food insecurity by the end of 2020. Reports also reveal that more than 3 million people have been displaced and more than 2500 newly built homes destroyed due to the clashes in 2020. To make things worse, floods in July and August this year have adversely affected more than 60,000 families. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates almost 4 million students have suffered due to disruption in schooling from 2015 onwards. Fuel shortage in many parts of the nation have led to people having to resort to using cattle and other domesticated animals to commute. The COVID-19 pandemic is another huge problem this already struggling population has to encounter. Although there have been only a couple thousand cases officially reported, the death rate exceeds 25% and it is widely recognised that these numbers don't even come close to showing the actual situation. Even if the infections seem to be low, the living conditions combined with the doldrums faced by the health system are surely a worrying sign. These and various other never ending facts and numbers show the severe multifarious crises this nation is facing. Multiple UNOs, Oxfam and other global not-for-profits have contributed millions of dollars in order to help this country survive through these testing times, but unfortunately there seems to be no end to their hardship in near sight.
END OF THE WAR?
The most important question people ask is when will this war come to a halt and quite frankly, while there is no definite answer, a majority of IR and conflict resolution scholars believe it would go on at least for a few years, if not decades. Recently the Houthis and the Hadi government went through with an exchange of more than 1000 war prisoners overseen by the United Nations. Though this is surely a positive, this by no means is a sign of peace being restored soon. Few believe that partition could be the answer to this question, but there is too much instability and a massive presence of radical military insurgents in the country and thus this is not a viable option. This long-standing war has also brought up questions about the underlying factor. Some scholars believe that if people's suffering was the main cause of the revolution, shouldn't they have come to an agreement amidst the humanitarian crisis the country is undergoing. Or is it that the greed for power has blinded the groups. A common sentiment among the local population is that the military groups are in fact keen on further extension of the war, as all of them seem to garner monetary gains. Some conspiracy theories believe that this war is being lengthened by the United States in order to reap benefits from selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Contrary to the former point, it can be said that an important factor in this war, like most of the conflicts across the Middle East is the Saudi-Iran hostility. This Sunni-Shia conflict has been going on for thousands of years and has seen these rivals back opposing groups in almost all conflicts in the region. Throughout the war, multiple efforts of the United Nations in order to restore peace have come and gone, truces being signed and then broken, there really is no answer as to how and when this war will end.
To conclude this analysis let us view what lies in the future for Yemen. Realistically speaking, the prospects are bleak and the humanitarian crisis will only keep getting worse until the war is put to a stop. Not knowing when the war will end, the post war period is going to be equally tough if not more as the country would have to start from scratch and will be in a situation much worse than at the end of the last civil war it saw.
Even when looked through the lens of optimism, there isn't much to rejoice for the future of Yemen, for the country's greatest achievement in the near future would just be to avoid extinction.
Summary: As the world battles COVID-19, Yemen fights for survival amidst a civil war and an extinction level humanitarian crisis.
Cover Image: Source