The famine conditions in embattled Yemen, after five years of relentless conflict with Saudi Arabia, have brought the impoverished and embattled country to the brink of famine. Wednesday’s caveat advanced by the UN’s World Food Program can thus be contextualised with the visual of a child reduced to skin and bone with an inflated tummy, recalling reports of a “starving Biafra” in the 1970s.
Closely intertwined with the food crisis is the grim reality that people have been driven to penury in this swathe of Asia. To the extent that the WFP may be forced to seek hundreds of millions of dollars in a desperate attempt by a UN entity to stave off widespread famine in the coming months. The Program needs at least $815 million in aid to Yemen over the next six months, but has only $300 million.
The UN agency will require at least $1.9 billion to meet targets in 2021. Indeed, the situation in the war-afflicted country has been described as “hell” by the world body. On closer reflection, the war has been no less devastating than the nationwide scarcity of food and the grinding poverty. Yemen symbolises the corelation between hunger and abject penury with the populace helmed by a beleaguered government.
Thus far, there has been no attempt to distinguish between extensive malnutrition and starvation. Albeit on a limited scale in terms of geographical spread and the number of the sick and dying, the enormity of the tragedy is no less severe than the catastrophic Covid pandemic that has plagued the world.
But the response of the comity of nations has been awefully limited at best and woefully impervious at worst. As the cry for food resonates and international withers remain unwrung, Yemen represents a microcosm of an international tragedy. This must of necessity take predence over the Saudi blitz against the Iran-backed Houthis. The world needs to wake up to how bad things have gotten in Yemen, was the lament of WFP’s executive director, David Beasley.
Children have been “wasting away” in a hospital in Sanna, Yemen’s capital. The heart-rending tragedy has deepened with reports that Yemen’s youngest are the worst affected. The adult has failed the child across the border from oil-rich Riyadh, the imperial seat of the desert kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The UN, which has dithered in other parts of the Arab world, has rather belatedly woken up with the robust intervention of the World Food Program.
Its senior representative has succinctly assessed the scenario with the high-minded lament ~ “In the children’s ward of a hospital, you normally hear crying and laughter. There’s no crying, there’s no laughter, there’s dead silence.” The silence of the baby is pregnant enough. Yemen symbolises hell on earth.