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The World Ignores Yemen’s Humanitarian Catastrophe

17 million people are on the brink of famine.

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is by far the worst in the world, but the international response to it remains woefully lacking:

“Yemen is an absolute catastrophe,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said at a separate event today. “Of the less than 30 million people that live there, 20 million literally don’t know what’s going to happen from day to day; 17 million of them are on the brink of famine [bold mine-DL].”

He noted that WFP has received about half of the funds its needs, adding that the Gulf States, in particular, need to “step up and fill in the gap.”

Yemen was a poor country heavily dependent on imports before the war, so the calamitous effects of military intervention were entirely foreseeable. Regional experts warned from the beginning that humanitarian disaster would follow. The enormous scale and severity of Yemen’s crisis couldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone paying attention, but then so very few were paying attention. The magnitude of the catastrophe taking place there continues to be matched only by the neglect it receives from the rest of the world. More than half the population is on the brink of famine, but instead of a massive emergency response most governments in the world have responded with a shrug and some including ours have been actively helping to create the conditions for starvation and epidemics.

All parties to the conflict bear responsibility for this catastrophe, but the more powerful and wealthier states in the Saudi-led coalition and their Western patrons have done most of the damage and still have it within their means to alleviate much of the civilian population’s suffering. The coalition and its Western backers have consistently refused to do the latter for the last two and a half years, and whatever paltry aid they have provided has been outweighed by the tremendous harm they have done and continue to do. The Saudis and their allies restrict what comes in to the country with their air and sea blockade, they impede aid efforts, they refuse to allow the delivery of cranes at Hodeidah that are essential for bringing in supplies, and they have devastated the country’s infrastructure and destroyed or damaged most of Yemen’s health care facilities. After all that, the Saudis still have the gall to send representatives to Washington to boast about their humanitarian efforts.

Throughout the war, the U.S. has armed and refueled coalition planes, and has provided diplomatic cover for the coalition’s crimes at the U.N. The coalition’s fingerprints are all over the famine and cholera crises unfolding in Yemen, and the U.S. has been a knowing accomplice. The governments that could do a great deal to combat the world’s worst humanitarian crisis are among its chief authors, and so the international response continues to be halting and inadequate while conditions continue to grow worse.