T he war in Yemen has created one of the most urgent humanitarian crises in the world. This was on stark display again this week when the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that at least 180 people had died of cholera since late April. Authorities in the capital Sanaa had previously declared a state of emergency.
“The suffering of millions of children remains invisible to the world,” Rajat Madhok, Unicef’s communication and advocacy chief in Yemen, told The World Weekly.
This is despite the fact that according to some estimates over 10,000 people have been killed since a Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervened in March 2015 and 17 million out of Yemen’s 26 million people lack sufficient food. “Many more children are dying from preventable diseases than from bullets and bombs,” Mr. Madhok says, adding that Unicef and its partners were continuing to provide basic health services.
The conflict is not happening in isolation from the West, as countries such as the US and UK are key backers of Saudi Arabia. Critics say that by sharing intelligence and reaching arms deals with coalition members, Western capitals have helped prolong the war. What is more, Yemen’s west coast lies on a strategic trade route leading to the Suez Canal.
As the humanitarian situation worsened, the country’s political situation grew even more complicated in recent weeks as politicians in the once independent south launched a transition council to govern southern provinces. Many factions across the country are in practice controlling their own territory with little or no interference from the exiled government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has the backing of Riyadh and the vast majority of the international community.
While not officially recognised, the southern transition council is Yemen’s third government in addition to President Hadi as well as the Houthis and those loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who control the capital and the north of the country.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one source familiar with the inner workings of the conflict said no one was “very optimistic” about another round of peace talks starting next month.
April Longley Alley, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group who just returned from a rare trip to Yemen, told TWW the outlook for the conflict was “bleak”, adding that even if the regional dimension of the war could be stopped, “internal fighting in Yemen is likely to continue for some time”.