Yemen is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. Around 23.4 million people including almost 13 million children need humanitarian assistance.

It has been declared the “worst man-made humanitarian crisis” by the United Nations (UN) but still doesn’t receive much attention; be it the print or electronic media.

The proliferating diseases and starvation are working as Damocles’ swords. According to the UN, the country is suffering from a famine that is being exacerbated by the crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic.

As per the estimates of the UN Development Programme, 1.3 million people will perish if the conflict in Yemen goes on until the year 2030. 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates the crisis has resulted in the deaths of almost a quarter of a million people. Life in the already impoverished country has become increasingly dangerous. 

Three-quarters of the country’s populace urgently needs outside assistance to fight disease and hunger.

Approximately 1.2 million pregnant or breastfeeding women and 2.3 million children under 5 will be subjected to the adverse impact of the drought. The latest estimates suggest that 80% of the population is in need of humanitarian aid and protection.

Furthermore, the eruption of the Covid-19 pandemic has put pressure on an already worn-out healthcare system. The pandemic affected 1 million people with a fatality rate of 25%.

Also, a decrease in humanitarian response has led to increased food insecurity, and inaccessibility of clean water, sanitation, and public health. 

Causes of Hunger

Even before the outbreak of war, Yemen was heavily dependent on imported food supplies. There is a scarcity of fresh water in the country to grow crops.

Therefore, most of the farmers grow qat, a narcotic leaf. A bulk of imports enter the country through seaports.

The blockade of seaports because of conflict led to the disruption of food supplies. Humanitarian aid has been intermittent because of the blockade.

In addition to that, the Houthis have imposed a tax on food goods in the area of their control, resulting in the rise of costs that impoverished people cannot afford.

According to International Humanitarian Law, a blockade is an act of war and it is only legal when it only halts arms and ammunition from reaching the rival forces.

However, it becomes illegal if its only purpose becomes the starvation of the civilian populace or if it affects them negatively.

The Human Rights Watch called upon the Security Council of the United Nations, arguing that the blockade violates International Humanitarian Law, with further enunciation upon the imposition of a ban on the responsible parties.

The opponents claim that the blockade has been lifted, but that is not the ground reality as per the UN’s claims. 

Worst Humanitarian Crisis?

Critics believe that the Yemen war is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The Secretary General of the UN General Assembly, Antonio Guterres highlighted that “22 million people-three-quarters of the population, are in desperate need of help and protection”.

Aside from the issues of hunger, famine, and diseases, the problem of increased child marriages also afflicts the war-torn country.

The Yemen war is often termed the forgotten war, because of the ignorance and lack of focus on the crisis. Both the belligerents in this crisis have used food as a weapon in this war.

Furthermore, the indiscriminate bombing of hospitals, schools, and markets has displaced and even killed civilians.

Meanwhile, Yemen continues to face the effects of cholera, COVID-19, protection risks, forced displacement, and other serious challenges.

Violations of International Humanitarian Law in Yemen

The UN Group of Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen believes that the belligerents in Yemen are responsible for the violation of International Humanitarian Law.

Human Rights Watch claims that illegal assaults leading to civilian deaths are rampant in Yemen. Such assaults are a blatant violation of one of the tenets of The Hague convention, in which it is prohibited to target undefended people.

Moreover, the destruction of counter-value targets to achieve the upper hand is shameful and a violation of international law.

Any kind of blockade that affects civilians also comes under the category of violations of international law. A blockade is an act of war and the only barricade allowed by law is the blockade of arms and weapons and no other commodity.

Another grave desecration of the law is the obstruction of medical care. Immediate medical care is essential in a war-ravaged country like Yemen, but the criminal insensitivity of the belligerents in this regard has made access to medical care and supplies almost nonexistent.

Under the enshrined rubrics of war, hospitals should be treated as sanctuaries throughout the time of combat and the health personnel should be left alone. However, that’s not the case in Yemen.

The international community has conspicuously remained reticent by maintaining silence on the continuing horror of the Yemen crisis.

The governments of the strong states ought to give the issue due attention in order to stave the humanitarian crisis and stop the flow of arms and ensuing violence.

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has been unsuccessful to respond sufficiently to the Yemen conflict, regardless of its enormousness. Even the funds provided by the developed countries are woefully insufficient to help the people of Yemen.

The sheer negligence and the almost criminal silence of the international community, the inability of the legal bodies to formulate and impose any substantial measures is evident from the helplessness of the international community and the prevailing aggressive environment of the country.

Consequently, Yemen has become the victim of international aloofness and callous disregard.