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January 20, 2020

On the brink


January 20, 2020

Yemen has faced the most misery possible in any country for the past many years. Images of starving children and mothers begging for food have appeared in many places. But largely the world has remained unmoved, with the country caught between a clash involving powers bigger than itself. Now a senior UN humanitarian official has warned that Yemen could once again face famine because of the rapid depreciation of its currency, and disruptions in salary payments. This would obviously be terrible news for the people of a country which has already suffered far too much. There is, however, some glimmer of hope. The UN Special Envoy for Yemen says there has been a marked reduction in military operations and that other initiatives are being taken that will hopefully lead to talks between the government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels on ending the conflict that has for five years destroyed the Arab world’s poorest country.

The UN Humanitarian Office and Coordination Division however warns that Yemen remains extremely volatile and extremely fragile. The recent flare-up between the US and Iran have worsened the situation. Things for Yemen then look extremely uncertain in the near future. We can only hope that humanitarian aid will increase and that the UN will succeed in generating more help for the conflict and poverty stricken country. The degree to which the plight of its people has been overlooked is frightening. It tells us a great deal about the world we live in and the withering away of humanitarian values within it. Instead, global politics and alliances of power are all that matter. Yemen became caught up in a tussle involving such a struggle for power years ago. There has since been no end to the horrors it has faced.

We would have hoped that as a country which proclaims to stand for democratic values and for human rights, the US would have played a role in attempting to stop the fighting and moving towards a ceasefire which could give people a respite from hunger and conflict and allow humanitarian agencies to move in more effectively. This has not happened. Deaths continue every day, in some cases due to hunger alone. The situation is an unacceptable one and we can only hope the UN Humanitarian Office is correct when it says that initiatives are being taken which could soon lead to an improvement in conditions in this already devastated country.

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