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The Ongoing Catastrophe in Yemen

The U.N. envoy for Yemen has held out hope that forthcoming talks in Geneva could yield an end to the conflict, but the exiled president of Yemen is having none of it:

President Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia in March, insisted on Monday that the Geneva meetings would not be negotiations but would focus on making the Houthis conform to a U.N. Security Council Resolution in April which called for them to quit Yemen’s main cities and recognize his authority.

The exiled government of Yemen continues to endorse a hard-line position in the war waged by its Saudi backers, and that can only prolong and exacerbate the suffering of the civilian population. That in turn makes it impossible to imagine that most Yemenis would accept the restoration of such a government once the fighting ends, which underscores just how senseless and unnecessary the intervention–ostensibly aimed at restoring Hadi to power–has been all along. There is no guarantee that negotiations would be able to resolve the conflict, but the government’s refusal to negotiate makes the conflict’s resolution impossible.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led campaign and the blockade of the country are continuing to have alarming, destructive effects on Yemen’s civilian population. Previous reports had said that the fuel and medicine shortages caused by the blockade were bringing Yemen’s health services to the brink of collapse, and the lack of access to clean water was greatly increasing the risk of disease. There are new reports that roughly twice as many people in Yemen as usual are suffering from dengue fever and malaria because of these conditions:

With less than two hours of electricity available each day, and a shortage of fuel to run generators, the lack of air conditioning and fans has left the population more exposed to mosquitos than in previous years, health officials said.

That is just one aspect of the catastrophe unfolding in Yemen. The U.N. reports that four-fifths of the population require urgent humanitarian assistance:

On Monday the UN said around 20 million people — 80 percent of the population — urgently needed humanitarian assistance [bold mine-DL].

More than 15 million Yemenis do not have access to basic healthcare, with 53 health facilities closed and malnutrition increasing, while 87 per cent of schools in the southern five governorates are closed, according to the UN.

Even when aid has been brought in, it cannot be distributed or prepared because of the same fuel shortage that is contributing to the country’s serious health problems:

“Our humanitarian colleagues also say that there are more than 250,000 metric tons of grain in stores in Aden and Hudaydah, but that it can’t be transported due to lack of fuel and insecurity, nor be cooked because of a lack of cooking gas,” UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

Conditions will only continue to deteriorate and more civilians will be exposed to hunger and disease as long as the war on Yemen goes on and the blockade of the country remains in place.

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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