Yemen was already a poor country before the ongoing bloody war broke out in 2014. The war is often referred to as the forgotten war, due to the lack of attention received by the media.
In 2014, rebel groups from the Houthi movement allied with troops loyal to the former president of the country, Ali Abdullah Saleh, capturing much of the country – including the capital Sana’a. The Houthis belong to the Shia faction of Islam, and therefore have support from Iran – a major Shia country in the Middle East.
The current president, who the Houthis want to oust, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, is a Sunni. He has the backing of Saudi Arabia – a major Sunni country in the region.
In March 2015, Saudi Arabia convinced other Sunni countries in the region to form a coalition aimed at dropping bombs against the Houthis. The airstrikes exacerbated the already fragile situation. The Houthis, too, have received arms supply and fighters from Iran. The United States and its Western allies are on the side of the Saudis, and have sold weapons and provided technical assistance to the coalition in order to bomb the Houthis.
However, the truth about the Western-backed Saudi-led air campaign is that the airstrikes are not hitting the Houthis. They are hitting innocent, weak and malnourished civilians who can’t even carry a knife to fight. In August 2016, the United Nations made the disturbing announcement that as many as 14 million people are going hungry in Yemen as a result of the war. Out of this figure, 370,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition. The country’s population is around 24.41 million. This means more than half of the population is without food.
Currently, the situation in the country has worsened. According to an in-depth report published by the Guardian as part of its global development project, many people in Yemen are either dying from perpetual hunger or bombardments from Saudi jets, which are being supported by the United States and other western nations.
The United Nations now estimates that over 10,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives from the constant bombardments and gun fire by the Saudis and the Houthis.
“The situation in Yemen is catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating,” Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen told the Guardian team in an interview.
What’s more appalling is that the Saudis have targeted villages with their bombs. These villages are inhabited by impoverished civilians who struggled to make ends meet before the war.
The bombardments have exacerbated their already impoverished situation. The Guardian team visited several villages in the Al Hudaydah governorate. Located on the shores of the Red Sea that divides Africa and Asia, the Al Hudaydah governorate is the poorest among all the 22 governorates in Yemen. The Saudi coalition has pounded the area with bombs, however. This in turn, halted all economic activity in the area. Residents, who mostly depend on fishing to survive, can’t go to sea due to fear of being bombed. Some residents who have risked fishing were bombed; and their boats destroyed. With no food and money, residents are literally starving to death.
“The war killed our only income, which was [me] working as a fisherman, and now we are jobless and hopeless. We are broken, we don’t have enough money, no food, nothing to eat, nothing to work with,” a resident named Al-Nahari in one of the villages in the Al Hudaydah Governorate said.
Another resident, Fatima, also narrated her ordeal. She takes care of her two grandsons in al-Hudaydah’s al-Mujelis village. Ali is 11 and Mohammed is 4. They both suffer from thalassemia, and their condition has been exacerbated by the lack of rich food. Fatima used to work on a Mango farm, but the constant bombardments in the area led to its shutdown.
“We have no money to treat my grandsons or to feed ourselves. Since we lost our jobs, we have no income and we have nothing to eat. Either we die from the bombing or from the hunger. My grandson needs treatment and also on the top of all that he needs to eat a healthy food, my grandson doesn’t know what the milk tastes like,” she said.
Fatima also blamed the world for turning a blind eye at what Saudi Arabia is doing in her country. “I blame the whole world for watching us dying and for their silence against the Saudi-led coalition,” she said.
A disabled 60-year-old woman living in al-Hajb village in the al-Almansoriah district named Saeeda, wept as she also narrated her condition to the team of journalists from the Guardian. Before the war, she was supported financially by her only son, who was working on a Mango farm just like Fatima.
“When the war started, he lost his job; my grandson looks for what is left from [our] neighbor’s food. Saudi jets scare me all the time and when I hear their sound in the air, I cannot even run away from my thatched hut [because] I’m disabled. Before the war, we were eating breakfast and lunch, we had $3 a day, the situation was safe, but now we don’t have anything, my son is jobless, our life was difficult but now it’s more difficult than it was, sometimes I wish I was not born in this life. Farms have been bombed, fishing boats too and diseases have become widespread; fever kills a lot of children,” she said.
A man named Gummai Esmail Moshasha, living in the village of Tihama, also told the team how he lost his family from the Saudi-led airstrikes on January 12, 2017.
“They were preparing the breakfast at our thatched hut; it was a tea and some biscuits. Suddenly the rocket hit our thatched hat, I ran to the home to see what happened, I was shocked to see my family members killed and cut into pieces, I hugged [what was] remaining of my wife’s body, I also hugged my mother and my son’s body, I was crying. My message to the world is, ‘Please stop the war’, but I think my message is useless, they won’t be able to bring back who I have lost,” Moshasha narrated amid tears.
This isn’t the first time such a horrible story regarding the Saudi-led coalition emerged from Yemen. In October 2016, human rights groups monitoring the war said they have evidence of Saudi Arabia committing genocide in Yemen. The rights groups said cancer, which is connected with nuclear disasters is developing in children across the country.
The brutality in Yemen is beyond imagination. But despite the situation, the United States and its Western allies still supply Saudi Arabia with weapons. These weapons are being used to murder innocent people and must be stopped.
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