Yemen might be the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis


Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports: The second floor of the dialysis clinic here looks more like a refugee camp than a kidney treatment center.

A few dozen patients have been living here for days, sleeping on either plastic chairs or the grime-covered floor. They are waiting for treatment but the clinic’s machines are not working. With each passing day the toxins in their blood increase. They get sicker. They can do nothing but wait.

Like all of Yemen, they are slowly dying.

The dialysis center represents all that is wrong with the country right now. Yemen is the site of a civil war, with one side backed by a Saudi-led coalition, the other led by the Houthi rebel movement. For nine months Saudi Arabia has been both bombing the country, at times indiscriminately. It has also imposed a crippling blockade.

The results have been dire for what was already the poorest country in the region. Food is scarce and Yemenis everywhere are going hungry. Officials say the country is on the brink of famine. The blockade has also prevented deliveries of fuel, which inhibits the ability of Yemenis to travel — for treatment at a dialysis center, for example. It has also led to an energy crisis. Electricity is intermittent at best. Meanwhile, violence has displaced millions. For all these reasons, the economy has essentially collapsed.

Saudi Arabia put together a coalition of Arab countries that is directly supported by the United States. The stated goal is to drive back the Houthi rebels and reinstall the country’s ousted president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour. Mansour is friendly to Saudi Arabia and the United States, allowing the latter to conduct its counterterrorism campaigns inside the country. For Saudi Arabia, the war is about countering perceived Iranian influence on a neighboring country.

The airstrikes alone have devastated Yemen, hitting civilian targets like weddings and hospitals with disturbing regularity. The blockade, meanwhile, is having a quieter, slower, but ultimately more deadly impact.

Saudi Arabia says the blockade is preventing weapons from reaching the Houthis. But it is also preventing humanitarian aid from reaching Yemenis. The Houthis and their allies have set up their own blockades in areas they control, making the problem even worse.

Effectively, Yemenis are being strangled to death. Every day that passes they lose more and more of the essentials: food, water, shelter, fuel and health care. [Continue reading…]

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