Food is the backbone of human existence. Early humans simply used it as a form of sustenance, necessary to stay alive. However, as time passed, humans discovered tools to make food taste better and cultivated methods through generations to make for the exquisite taste palette most humans have today. Nowadays, for many, food isn’t a chore: it’s something we enjoy making, something we look forward to, and something we love. However, this is an idealized form of reality. Many people across the globe don’t have the privilege of having access to whatever food they want, whenever they want it. Yemen, in particular, is grappling with this issue—as over 20 million of its citizens suffer from food insecurity.
The picture above is of a Yemeni girl named Noha. While at first glance she may just appear to be a small toddler, she’s actually 7 years old and suffering from extreme starvation, so much so that her organs have started to shut down. This is the grim reality for the over 2.4 million children in Yemen that the United Nations predicts will be suffering from starvation before the years’ end. Unfortunately, food insecurity is just one of many problems in Yemen as the country, victim to a war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, faces one of the most severe humanitarian crises of all time.
The war in Yemen between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and US-backed Saudi Arabia has already claimed the lives of 100,000 people through civilian drone strikes, famine, civil wars, and other violence since 2015 . With COVID-19 ravaging the country and weakening an already struggling economy, the United Nations has warned that Yemen’s food insecurity will only get worse.
However, even with the many dangers the virus poses, experts say that starvation and hunger pose the biggest threat to the Yemeni people, especially since foreign countries have begun reducing aid. Around 75 percent of UN programs, ranging from healthcare to nutrition, have either closed or reduced operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Even more concerning, many donor countries have stopped sending aid, citing that the aid was not “reaching intended recipients” in areas controlled by the Houthis. Oxfam, a charitable global association of 20 charities, has warned that up to 12,000 Yemeni per day could potentially die due to hunger as a result of delayed international help as a result of factors associated with COVID-19.This could possibly cause more deaths than the disease itself. They also report that “remittances (the transfer of money) dropped by 80 percent –or $253 million– in the first four months of 2020 as a result of mass job losses across the Gulf.” In addition, the closing of the Yemeni border and food supply routes into the country has to lead to massive food shortages and an increase in prices—disastrous considering that the country imports roughly 90% of its food.
The chief of UN humanitarian affairs, Mark Lowcock, supports the notion of an immediate ceasefire in Yemen. Having collected only 18% of the funding required to keep UN programs running, he states that “We should expect large increases in hunger, malnutrition, cholera, COVID-19, and, above all, death.” However, a ceasefire may not be negotiated anytime soon due to the political nature of the war and the involvement of militant nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the United States. Despite this, there are a few things you can do to help the crisis from wherever you are:
- Donate: There are several organizations aimed at helping ease the humanitarian crisis in Yemen including, but not limited to:
- The International Rescue Committee (IRC): You can make a tax-deductible donation that goes toward saving families from starvation and diseases by providing food, water, medicine, etc.
- The World Food Program USA (WPA): You can donate to WFP, which delivers food to children and families in need (not just limited to Yemen).
- Call Congress: You can call Congress at (202) 224-3121 and implore them to end military support of Saudi war efforts in Yemen and support a ceasefire (at least for the time being). Many organizations such as the IRC have even put together call scripts that you can use when talking to representatives.
- Educate Others and Stay Informed: Raising awareness about the issue not only increases donations and humanitarian aid, but it results in a more informed public. The war is fueled by politics, both international and domestic, and public pressure on the government to take action could be what ends it.
Kaurwaki Babu is a senior at the North Carolina School of Science and Math, a boarding school in North Carolina. From a young age, she’s had a passion for political issues ranging from gun control to climate change. By taking part in several protests, joining Speech and Debate, and participating in the U.S. Senate Page Program, she has found ways to enter the world of political discourse through social justice and policy change. She’s part of the leadership committee at Discovery Place Science, a science museum in Charlotte, NC, where she advocates for environmental consciousness and helps high schoolers get actively involved in environmental justice. She’s excited to write for NGP and become more involved in fostering political discourse among youth!