Home/Daniel Larison/The World Continues to Fail the People of Yemen

The World Continues to Fail the People of Yemen

IRIN Photos/Flickr: The UN-administered camp at Mazrak, north-west Yemen, seen on 12 November 2009 is now stretched beyond capacity after a Saudi military offensive against the Huthis starting early November uprooted a fresh wave of IDP families.

Ray Offenheiser of Oxfam America details the failures of the U.N. and its member states to hold the Saudi-led coalition accountable for its crimes in Yemen, and he mentions the role of the U.S. and Britain in enabling the coalition’s war:

It is tempting to view the U.N.’s betrayal of Yemeni children exclusively as a failure of the U.N.’s leadership, but this incident is not an anomaly. For over a year, powerful U.N. member states have helped insulate the Saudi-led coalition from culpability and, in so doing, fueled its righteous outrage at attempts to hold it to account. Since its intervention in Yemen began over 15 months ago, the coalition has found the U.N. a highly convenient venue in which to be absolved of human rights abuses—thanks largely to the enabling of Saudi Arabia’s powerful allies, the U.S. and the U.K. [bold mine-DL]

The U.S. and British material support for the coalition’s intervention in the form of weapons, fuel, and intelligence is better-known than the diplomatic cover that they have provided for the Saudis and their allies, but the latter is still important and just as damning. The Obama administration and Cameron’s government have not only provided the Saudi-led coalition with the means to pummel and starve Yemen, but they have gone out of their way to make sure that the coalition’s wrongdoing (and their complicity in it) is covered up as much as possible. The Saudis have worked hard to whitewash the coalition’s record, and in this Washington and London (among others) have given them significant help.

Offenheiser’s description of Yemen’s plight also needs to be cited here:

“We sit by as if waiting for our turn to die,” a Yemeni woman named Aisha told my Oxfam colleague earlier this year. It’s a fair summation of most Yemenis’ attitudes towards the war that a U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition has waged on behalf of the Government of Yemen against Houthi rebels. The conflict has left more than 21 million people in Yemen dependent on foreign aid to survive, more than anywhere else on the planet [bold mine-DL]. The parties to the conflict have all committed horrific violations of the laws of war and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

All of this has been covered in intermittent news reports on the war on Yemen, but somehow the enormous scale of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Yemen continues to be overlooked by most of the rest of the world. More than twenty million people are relying on aid to survive, the coalition blockade severely restricts the imports on which the population depends, and roughly seven million are at the greatest risk of starving to death. It is one of the most severe humanitarian disasters in the world today, and yet it receives scant attention and a very feeble response from the world’s governments. As Offenheiser says, much of the population is on the verge of famine. This is a famine that has been brought about largely because of the coalition’s intervention and blockade, and one that could still be prevented from claiming more victims.

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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