Pangs of pain by The News Editorial

Once again acute food insecurity is expected to rise sharply in war-torn Yemen with the problem exacerbated by the coronavirus, states a report by several UN agencies. Hunger in Yemen has been a problem we have seen grow rapidly since the war in the country broke out in 2014 when Houthi rebels took over the capital and displaced the government. The war escalated in March 2015 when the Saudi-led military coalition intervened against the rebels. Despite the fighting, the issue of hunger had begun to come under control in 2019 as the world recognized the scale of the issue. The new UN report, which covers only seven parts of Yemen, forecasts that people facing hunger will increase from 2 million at the start of this year to 3.2 million in the period between July and December. This figure makes up 40 percent of the population of the districts which have been covered.

Alongside fighting economic shocks, floods, locust swarms and the coronavirus pandemic have created a dangerous background for the sharp rise in food insecurity. The World Food Programme and Unicef as well as other partners have called the increase “alarming”. The WFP country director has said Yemen is facing a crisis on multiple fronts. It has previously warned that over 20 million people all over Yemen are food insecure and nearly 10 million are facing acute shortages. The population of Yemen is around 27 million. While the UN describes the situation in the country as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, not enough nations or their leaders are listening. These include the wealthy countries that surround Yemen, but which have done little to solve the crisis. While international aid and funding over a long period of time is required, it is also necessary that the conflict in the country be brought to a stop.

The war in Yemen is essentially a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. As such, the allies of both countries need to play a role in bringing about some kind of settlement. Given the acrimony that exists, this may not be easy. But the humanitarian toll on Yemen should be a factor in persuading all those who are able to help to step up their efforts and persuade both countries to agree at the very least to a ceasefire which will allow time and space for a more permanent solution to be chalked out between the various parties involved in the fighting that has now already continued for well over half a decade.

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