As thousands of children starve in Yemen, it seems as if the world has selected to ignore their suffering. (Photo credit: The Guardian)
Visiting Yemen in late November, World Food Program’s Managing Director David Beasley came away with the following summary of what he saw: “Yemen is the stuff of nightmares, of horror, of deprivation, of misery. And we — all of humanity — have only ourselves to blame”. Sadly, Mr. Beasley words are falling on globally deaf ears. Despite attempts by the United Nations and the United States to call for and even attempts to orchestrate cease fires, the fighting in Yemen continues which means the starvation and suffering of the children of Yemen continues. What started as an outgrowth of the Arab Awakening has become a humanitarian disaster and there does not appear to be any end in sight. The time for placing blame or responsibility for why and how the war began has passed, and the concern now should be first and foremost for the most vulnerable of Yemeni society that are paying a ghastly toll for a war they can do nothing to control. Instigated be means beyond their control and continuing despite their cries, the children of Yemen should be a symbol of the world’s shameful lack of response. With numbers of starving as high as eighty-five thousand, the youngest victims of the Iranian-Saudi/US proxy war are being forgotten.
Seven year old Amal Hussain was one of the thousands of children who perished due to starvation in the midst of the fighting in her country. The image of her frail, shriveled body became internationally known, and when she dies in early November, her life should have been the call for action to stop the bloodshed and pain. Instead, much like Alan Kurdi, the drowned Syrian children carried in the arms of a soldier or Omran Daqneesh, whose bloodied body and blank stare peered from the back of an ambulance in Aleppo, Hussain was merely a fleeting image of indescribable agony before the world in general returned to its concerns. For the United States, it was a time for President Donald Trump to tweet about gas prices as the country enters the busy holiday driving season and to thank Saudi Arabia for its role in lowering the price on a barrel of crude. This celebration of the Saudis comes days after Trump’s own intelligence officials acknowledged that the Saudi government, including Prince bin Salman had knowledge of and orchestrated the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. If the US will not acknowledge the role it is playing in the killing of tens of thousands of children, then perhaps the rest of the world should.
In the summer of 2018, the EU promises over one hundred and thirty-two million dollars in humanitarian aid, which is a remarkably benevolent act, but the amount of food, water, and medical supplies matters not if the items cannot reach the people in need. Much of the heaviest fighting in Yemen is taking place near Hudaydah, an essential port city. Therefore, the aid that has been promised is merely theoretic and the unbearable slaughter continues. Yemen is an opportunity for the collective voices of Europe to speak as one and demonstrate how the shift into an “America First” by the US fails that nation as a global citizen. The complexities of Yemen are well known, and while the country was already in a dire situation before the first shots of the current war were fired, the grotesque nature of the nation’s current conditions must continue to be broadcast globally. There are legions of organizations bravely working to assist the victims of Yemen’s war, with World Food Program and Save the Children among those leading the way. However, without meaningful involvement by global powers, scores of children like Amal Hussain will continue to die, leaving behind distraught parents, a broken nation, and a legacy of global failure.