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Counting the Dead in Yemen

Kareem Fahim investigates the war on Yemen’s weirdly static official death toll of 10,000 casualties and finds that it is certainly much higher:

The overall death toll may have reached alarming levels, according to one independent tally. Data collected by ACLED, a group that studies conflicts, puts the death toll at nearly 50,000 people in the period between January 2016 and late July 2018.

That number includes combatants but excludes people not directly killed during the fighting — thousands of civilians who have died of malnutrition or cholera, for instance. Last year, Save the Children estimated that 130 children were dying every day because of “extreme hunger and disease.”

There are at least nearly 50,000 people dying from preventable causes of starvation and disease every year in Yemen. When we add those together with the estimate of 50,000 killed in the fighting, we are looking at a conservative estimate of close to 200,000 dead over the last three years. The civilians that have perished from starvation and preventable disease are victims of this war as surely as if they were killed in by bombs and shells, and there are millions more of them at risk of dying from starvation if the war keeps going as it has.

The figure of 50,000 does not account for the early months of the war, and so the overall death toll from fighting is certain to be higher than that:

ACLED is still tallying data from the first nine months of the conflict, when the fighting was most intense, meaning that the death toll is certain to rise, according to Andrea Carboni, who researches Yemen for the group. ACLED says it collects information from secondary sources, corroborates it multiple times and uses the most conservative estimates when it comes to fatalities.

There has already been enormous loss of life in Yemen that the official figures have obscured for years. If the current Hodeidah offensive continues, the loss of life will be much greater. What sets Yemen apart from other places around the world is the sheer scale and severity of the humanitarian crisis created by the Saudi coalition war. A war that has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives could soon cause the deaths of millions if conditions are allowed to remain as they are.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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