THE BLOG

Yemenis Left Ravaged By War With No Help In Sight

22/10/2017 23:51 BST | Updated 22/10/2017 23:51 BST
Mohannad Khatib

Yemenis who have not been killed in coalition airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia are facing an unbearable humanitarian crisis due the imposed blockade.

The blockade, which began in 2015, has left an already impoverished nation in a state of desperation. According to UN figures, more than 21million people, about 82% of the population are in need of humanitarian assistance with seven million in famine.

Despite the staggering figures, it's hard to imagine the scale of destruction and suffering due to very little media coverage on the conflict. Wanting to know more about the impact of the war on the lives of ordinary Yemenis, I spoke to Mohammed Humran, a geopolitical analyst for the Yemen Geography Society based in Sana'a, Yemen. His story is one of despair and of a nation living in abject poverty with no help available.

He began by saying: "those who haven't been killed by Saudi jets, will die from a heart attack. Sudden deaths through the horrors of war are something that has increased in Yemen. Everyday we've been hearing about the death of family and friends because of heart attacks.

One day (last month) I came home and heard my uncle's son died, he was still young, aged 30 and left behind two children. One of my friend's also died from a heart attack. He was a teacher in a secondary school in the community. At his funeral, I was speaking to an elder, who told me during the week from 15 to 21 September this year, more than eight people died from heart attacks in the suburbs of Sana'a.

In 2016 my uncle's wife also suffered a heart attack and died. She lived in fear from the missile attacks. Before she died, she came to my house looking for water, I was joking with her and said I'd charge her 209 Riyals. She was taken to hospital and passed away. One day her husband was sitting with my brothers, suddenly he couldn't breathe or move. They took him to the hospital, but he too died of a heart attack.

I've been speaking to people and because of the war and the blockade they can't live - famine, no medicine, no school, and no salaries. People feel under pressure. When they return home they have nothing to give to their families. So this is a slow death for Yemenis these days. They can't do anything. The pressure they feel is very high.

Farmers can't plant because there's no oil; their livelihood is on hold. Yemeni people are struggling to survive. You can see young kids on the streets begging, they don't have anything to eat. To sum up: Yemeni people are living miserable lives and feel worthless."

Mohammed's disturbing story echoes the concerns of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and international sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, who has spoken about the dire situation of Al Hudaydah Port, an important lifeline for Yemenis. In the aftermath of the airstrikes, the port is now partially operating; despite the fact the country is 80-90% dependent on aid.

"Despite assurances from the coalition forces, the situation on the ground remains desperate," Mr. Jazairy says. "The blockade involves grave breaches of the most basic norms of human rights law, as well as of the law of armed conflict, which cannot be left unanswered." Furthermore he spoke of his "deep concern at this man-made famine which is generated by the conflict."

It's time that our government stopped selectively condemning humanitarian disasters and applied diplomatic pressure on their Saudi ally. Pressure needs to be applied to negotiate a truce while lifting the blockade to allow humanitarian aid to be delivered. Basic rights to life, food and decent living need to be upheld universally.