The humanitarian disaster looming in Yemen

You probably haven’t seen this bit of news, and with any luck at all the situation will be resolved before becoming a major story you can’t avoid.

This past weekend, Houthi rebels fighting in Yemen against the internationally-recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi launched a ballistic missile at Saudi Arabia’s capital city. The missile reportedly targeted Riyadh’s airport but was intercepted before reaching its destination.

We have plenty of other terrible events distracting us here in the United States right now. Don’t feel bad if you missed this.

Here’s why the attempted missile attack and its aftermath is important. Saudi Arabia’s crown prince immediately denounced the missile attack as something that “may be considered an act of war,” and he accused Iran of “direct aggression” against Saudi Arabia because Iran supplied the Shia Houthis with missiles.

Saudi Arabia’s response to the attack has been equally swift: a blockade of entry points to Yemen, a country that relies on imports to supply about 90% of its daily needs, according to the United Nations.

Dire shortages of food and medicine are imminent.

The United Nations’ World Food Program currently feeds 7 million people a month in Yemen. These 7 million people will feel the blockade’s consequences immediately. Millions more, already classified as “hungry” will soon face extreme famine.

To make matters worse, Yemen is currently experiencing the “fastest growing cholera epidemic ever recorded,” with 895,000 cases as of November 2 (a week ago today). Over half of the suspected cholera cases are children.

Let me restate that more directly: Around 450,000 children in Yemen have contracted cholera in the past six months.

Cholera—rare in the developed world—is a horrible intestinal infection causing copious amounts of watery diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, and muscle cramps. It can be fatal; nearly 2,200 people in Yemen have died from cholera since April 27th. The infection can be prevented with a vaccine (effective for about six months), but now that the blockade is in place, neither vaccine nor treatment medicines are getting through.

If something doesn’t happen quickly, many more people will die.

The political situation in Yemen is a mess. In some ways ordinary citizens are mere pawns in a rebellion/civil war that is in part a proxy conflict between longtime rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. I lack adequate background to make any kind of statement regarding which side is right or wrong.

But surely the world can’t just stand by and watch this happen.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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4 Responses to The humanitarian disaster looming in Yemen

  1. What a scary world!


  2. tomsimard says:

    ” I lack adequate background to make any kind of statement regarding which side is right or wrong.”

    I’m equally incapable of passing judgment though my hunch would be that it’s like almost everything else – gray – nothing black or white.

    “But surely the world can’t just stand by and watch this happen.”

    Let’s hope not.

    Liked by 1 person

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