The legacy of Yemen’s Civil War: the largest humanitarian crisis in the world

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Kamal, a second-generation British Yemeni whose father came to the UK in 1958, reminds us that the world has forgotten about “the daily struggles of the Yemeni people who are surviving miraculously… that struggle is genuine, it’s real.”

The Yemeni Civil War began in 2014 when the Houthi resistance movement, originating from the Northern province of Saada, occupied the capital city of Sanaa, forcing President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee to the southern city of Aden. 

Prior to this 2014 escalation, the Houthis led an insurgency in 2003. They claimed to be fighting against the corrupt government of authoritarian ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh. Following the 2011 Arab Spring, Saleh was forced out and replaced by Hadi, signifying the beginning of national dialogue for the formation of a new political system for Yemen. 

Despite what seemed to be the beginning of a healing Yemen, the Houthis remained critical of the proposed solutions.

The Houthis’ capture of Sanaa on September 21st 2014 marked the beginning of a never-ending conflict. In the subsequent years, the war has only grown in complexity.

“Everyone wants one thing from Yemen- a Yemen that doesn’t succeed, a Yemen that remains how it is” 

In 2015, Saudi Arabia became involved in leading a coalition of 8 other Arab states in a military intervention (supported by the US, UK, and France), with the aim of reinstating the legitimate Hadi government and allowing them to regain control of the region. 

This bombing campaign incited further tension, with allegations of Iran beginning to supply the Houthis with weapons and the Western world continuing to make their presence known, with the US and the UK selling weapons and technology to their Saudi allies. 

Five years later, numerous peace attempts (such as the Stockholm Peace Agreement) have been made. Yet clashes have continued and casualties continue to rise. A 2019 data suggests that there have been over 100,000 fatalities from direct attacks since 2015- 12,000 of which were civilians. 

However, when the secondary impacts of the famine are considered, the number is much greater. 85,000 children may have died between 2015 and 2018, and still, an official state of famine is yet to be declared. 

24 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian aid, but the blockade of key port city, Hodeidah, and destruction of other access points have limited the amount of aid able to enter the country. There is also evidence that parties in the conflict are actively obstructing the incoming of aid for civilians. 80% of Yemen is living below the poverty line, and yet the cost of a minimum food basket is 103% higher than before the civil war. 

Even in the UK, the war has had its effects on Yemeni communities, with extended families often remaining stuck at the heart of the conflict, unable to leave, or facing immigration barriers. 

Civilians are left in a country where each party is fighting for their own interest, whether that is the return of the legitimate president, separation of North and South Yemen, control of other Middle Eastern powers, or an entirely new governance. Kamal explains how “everyone wants one thing from Yemen- a Yemen that doesn’t succeed, a Yemen that remains how it is.” 

After years of escalation and violence, he longs “to go back to a place where people can talk.”

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Article by Alice Falciani