The visual of a woman in Yemen holding a malnourished child is horrific testament to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, recalling the photographs of starving Biafra that once went viral. An estimated 1.8 million people are feared to be severely malnourished ~ a direct consequence of the war seemingly without end.
Half of the country’s 22 million inhabitants are on the brink of starvation, the ugly truth of a war that has made a mockery of international law and ironically enough, on the centenary of the First World War. As the suffering intensifies by the day, there is no end to the conflict in sight as the Saudi offensive against the Houthi rebels has been ramped up this week, indeed now more than ever.
Altogether the tiny country exemplifies an international crime perpetrated in the main by Saudi Arabia, now virtually under the control of the adventurist Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Nor for that matter can the democratic West evade its complicity. The origins of the war need not detain us here; it is the endemic malnourishment and starvation that ought now to be of riveting concern.
The least that the Western powers can do is to contain the adventurism of the desert kingdom that is increasingly manifest even four years after the war began. Since then, conditions have deteriorated almost unimaginably. Short of intervention, the United Nations has underscored the enormity of the tragedy with the warning that this could become the worst famine for a century. The signal is dire and ought to stir the conscience of the comity of nations.
Reality can be quirky, when not an exercise in dumbing down. Small wonder that the official death toll has been stuck at 10,000 for years; some estimate the true tally at over five times that number. The World Health Organization has calculated the number of cholera cases at 10,000 a week. This must be reckoned to be horrendous even by the standards of medical science.
The country has been reduced to what they call a “chaos state” ~ a geographical entity that exists only very nominally. Peace prospects are ever so uncertain. This week has been particularly devastating. Violence has intensified since the unexpected US call for a ceasefire last month, an appeal that was advanced in the aftermath of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul.
With fighting flaring in the critical port of Hodeidah, the supply of food will almost inevitably be dislocated. And as the crisis escalates, the UN envoy has deferred the scheduled talks until the end of the year. The country showcases a complex cocktail of geopolitics, involving the US, Iran, which backs the Houthi rebels, and Saudi Arabia that now contends with palace intrigues. A partially starving Yemen braces for war and no peace… and little or no food.