The Saudi-Made Famine in Yemen
The Washington Post has published a new report on Yemen’s famine and the Saudi coalition policies that are most responsible for creating it:
A raft of economic policies has conspired to raise food prices by an average of 137 percent since the start of the conflict, according to the World Food Program, bringing Yemen to the brink of famine.
In an effort to strangle the rebels, known as Houthis, the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government has imposed import restrictions, including on food, medicine and fuel. The resulting spike in fuel prices has led to higher transport costs, which in turn has also driven up food prices [bold mine-DL].
The coalition, in the meantime, tightly controls the movement of goods and people by air, sea and land into northern Yemen, where 80 percent of the population lives. Those controls have further disrupted supplies and boosted the prices of food, fuel and other goods even more [bold mine-DL].
The shooting from the war also has played a devastating part. One-third of the 18,000 airstrikes carried out by the coalition have targeted nonmilitary sites, including factories, farms, markets, power plants and food warehouses, according to the Yemen Data Project. Those attacks have shattered domestic food production and distribution and have erased livelihoods, leaving Yemenis with less to spend.
The Saudi coalition’s responsibility for causing mass starvation in Yemen is not seriously in dispute. I and many others have been documenting it for years, and this report provides further confirmation for what we have been saying. Yemen’s catastrophe is a man-made one, and we should not be shy about the saying that the Saudi coalition and the U.S. bear most of the responsibility for causing it. As Alex de Waal says in Mass Starvation, people sometimes starve, and in other cases they are made to starve by other people. Yemen is clearly an example of the latter, and the people there are being starved by the policies of governments supported by the U.S.
One of the most important points that de Waal makes in his book is that famine is something that takes enormous effort to create in the modern world. “Today, acts of commission–political decisions–are needed to turn a disaster into mass starvation.” (p. 55) In order to drive people into famine conditions today, a government (or group of governments, in this case) has to go to extraordinary lengths to deprive people of food and the means to obtain it. The link that he identifies between famine and mass atrocity is this: “Both are primarily political projects that consider (some) human lives expendable or worthless.” (p.35) The Saudi coalition’s flagrant disregard for Yemeni lives has been evident and undeniable for more than three years.
His other critically important observation was this:
Famines can occur without a food shortage, for example when people starve because they can’t get enough food in a land of plenty. Famines can occur without mass outright starvation unto death: people may suffer epidemic malnutrition that leads to increased susceptibility from infectious diseases. (p. 18)
In Yemen, we are seeing a famine created by Saudi coalition policies that makes food prohibitively expensive for most of the population living in a ruined economy. As long as those policies are in place, the famine will worsen.