Yemen crisis - What is it all about


Introduction

  • Yemen is in the midst of the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with 24.1 million people in need of aid and protection.
  • The problem has been escalating on the back of a five-year-long civil war. In 2011 an Arab spring uprising put pressure on the authoritarian president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Followed by a series of protests from various rebel groups, Saleh was forced to give up power to his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.
  • Mr Hadi’s government, however, failed to deal with a number of problems – the separatist movement in the south continued making noise, there were numerous attacks created by jihadists, security personnel remained loyal to Saleh and ordinary Yemeni people were suffering unemployment and starvation. This left the government vulnerable.
  • In 2014 came a rebellion led by Houthi, an armed political movement originally against Saleh’s government. After a series of uprisings Houthi rebels, sympathisers with Zaidi Shia Muslim group, managed to gain the support of ordinary Yemeni people. Eventually, they took the capital Sana’a in mid-2014.
  • Houthi officials announced the dissolution of a house of representatives and the installation of a Revolutionary Committee. Saudi-Arabian led coalition announced they had begun military operations against Houthi rebels in Yemen. This conflict between Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition is still ongoing. And the impact is huge.

What has happened since then?

  • The UN has stated that during the past 4 years, the civil war has left at least 17,700 civilians dead or injured. The war is believed to be largely responsible for the cholera epidemic, which as of October 2017 has had over 800,000 cases.
  • As of March 2020, UNICEF estimates that 2 million Yemeni children under the age of 5 are suffering from acute malnutrition and are in need of treatment.
  • Yemen’s health system was already on the brink of collapse and cases of coronavirus have risen to the hundreds, which, with extremely low testing rates, are likely to increase even more.

What has been done so far?

  • Aid agencies estimate the need for up to $2.41 billion (£1.95b) to cover essential lifesaving aid until the end of the year.
  • The UN and its partners are delivering humanitarian assistance to more than 10 million people across the country every month.

How does this affect the rest of the world?

  • Whatever happens in Yemen can greatly trigger regional tensions. It worries the West also because of the attack threats coming from al-Qaeda or IS affiliates.
  • The conflict is also seen as part of a regional power struggle between Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia.
  • Gulf Arab states have also  accused Iran of providing the Houthis financially and militarily,  even though Iran has denied this.
  • Yemen is also strategically important because it sits on a strait linking the Red Sea with the Gulf of Aden, through which much of the world's oil shipments pass.
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