The World’s Largest Humanitarian Crisis: Why Yemen?

The world’s largest humanitarian crisis isn’t in Iraq or Syria. It’s in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab region. Why?

The United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), has estimated that 10.3 million people urgently require assistance to save their lives. This makes up part of the larger number of 18.8 million people who require humanitarian assistance in Yemen.

As well as being home to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, the largest food security emergency is also in Yemen – 17 million Yemenis are food-insecure, of which 6.8 million are currently in need of immediate food assistance.

How did the conflict start?

The conflict began in 2010 with the string of protests in North Africa and the Middle East, known the ‘Arab Awakening’, which resulted in the toppling of regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

As a result, the power of the Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, was to be given to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, his deputy.

However, a separate movement in Yemen’s South, coupled with unemployment, food shortages, and suicide bombings made the transition of power challenging.

The movement was made up of a Shia rebel group, the Houthis, and people loyal to the former President, Saleh. An opposing movement loyal to the new government became prominent.

The Houthis eventually took over Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, in 2014; and in early 2015 both Houthis and those loyal to Saleh attempted to take control of the whole of Yemen. Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi was forced to flee to Saudi Arabia as a consequence.

Saudi Arabia regarded the uprising as an immediate threat; proceeding to begin an alliance and military campaign aimed at diffusing the conflict and restoring the Hadi government, which has had an adverse effect on Yemen.

The conflict has resulted in the deaths of at least 10,000, and the displacement of 3 million since early 2014.

Other supporters providing Saudi Arabia with the logistics and weaponry to fuel the conflict include the UK, USA, and Germany.

The conflict in Yemen has left it open to more devastation from Al Qaeda and ISIL who use it as, what Al Jazeera describes, a ‘violent playground’ and an opportunity to seize parts of the county.

As a result, civilians are suffering the consequences; restricted humanitarian aid means more famine and lack of vital medical assistance to combat the cholera crisis. Failure to maintain garbage and sewage, coupled with a limited clean water supply, has caused the disease to spread at a rapid rate.

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Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.