The Dying Children of Yemen
Reuters reported last week on one of the many tens of thousands of preventable deaths in Yemen:
Saleh al-Faqeh held the wasted arm of his baby girl as she took her last breath on Thursday at the malnutrition ward of the main hospital in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa.
Four-month-old Hajar al-Faqeh reached the al-Sabeen hospital last week from Saada province, one of thousands of Yemeni children suffering from malnutrition in a country that has been pushed to the brink of famine by more than three years of war.
Her body lies in the same ward where another baby boy, Mohammed Hashem, died from severe hunger on the same day.
A Yemeni child dies from preventable causes every ten minutes. Opponents of the war cite this statistic frequently to convey how desperate the situation is, but it fails to capture just how horrific the conditions are for more than eleven million children and millions of adults in Yemen who are hanging on by a thread. These eleven million children in Yemen represent 80% of the country’s under-18 population, and according to UNICEF they are “facing the threat of food shortages, disease, displacement and acute lack of access to basic social services.” This is a generation that has been ravaged by war, pestilence, and famine, and the health and development of the vast majority of Yemen’s children will be seriously compromised long after the fighting stops. As large and staggering as the numbers of malnourished and starving people in Yemen are, they are inadequate measures of the harm that has been done to an entire people during three and a half years of senseless, unnecessary war.
Half of Yemen’s health care facilities are no longer functioning because they have been damaged or destroyed or because there are no longer resources to run them. The enormous needs of the civilian population are overwhelming the facilities that remain:
United Nations food chief David Beasley spotted a tiny foot sticking out from under a blanket in a hospital in Yemen that has been overwhelmed with malnourished children, so he tried to bring a smile to the face of the small patient.
“It was just like tickling a ghost,” Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, told reporters in New York on Friday after returning from a three-day visit to the war-torn, impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.
Beasley recounted a conversation he had with a doctor at the hospital in the country’s capital Sanaa: “He said ‘every day about 50 children are brought to us. We have to send 30 home to die. We can only accommodate 20.'” [bold mine-DL]
Yemen is often called the “forgotten war,” but the truth is much worse. Yemen has not been forgotten by foreign governments. Instead, many foreign governments, including ours, have aided the Saudi coalition in its attempt to obliterate it. They have paid just enough attention to Yemen to help the Saudi coalition destroy the country, but not nearly enough to forestall the entirely predictable and predicted humanitarian disaster that has been unfolding in front of all of us for years. Each day that the U.S. continues to support this war is another day that our government knowingly assists in killing innocent Yemenis, no matter whether they die from airstrikes, starvation, or disease. Each day, dozens more like poor Hajar al-Faqeh needlessly perish in a war that our government has helped to keep going for forty-four months.
The Senate could be voting on S.J.Res. 54 later this month. If it is allowed to come to a vote and if the resolution passes, it will require the president to halt all U.S. support for the Saudi coalition. The Senate failed in its duty eight months ago when it killed this resolution the last time it came up, and now the senators will have a second chance to correct that terrible failure.