In Photos: The war on Yemen
The nation can’t cope. This merciless war has unleashed the worst of the Middle East.
Nearly two years have passed since Yemen’s conflict broke out. At least 10,000 people have died in a war that has engulfed one of the world’s most embattled, impoverished nations.
“People are very tired and afraid. The war has destroyed the infrastructure, the roads and the bridges. We’re worried about the rising number of silent victims.” — Eric Jeunot, a program director at MSF
Civilians have been killed. Houses destroyed, and hospitals reduced to a mere wreckage.
The conflict began in September 2014, when Houthi rebels, who received money and weaponry from Iran, overran Yemen’s capital of Sana’a and a number of other provinces.
The Houthis forced Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and his government to temporarily flee to Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh.
In March 2015, a coalition of seven Gulf states led by the Saudis kicked off an aerial operation aimed at pushing out the Houthis.
“The war in Yemen is not a war that we wanted. We had no other option — there was a radical militia allied with Iran and Hezbollah that took over the country. It was in possession of heavy weapons, ballistic missiles and even an air force. Should we stand by idly while this happens at our doorstep, in one of the countries in which al-Qaida has a huge presence? So we responded, as part of a coalition, at the request of the legitimate government of Yemen, and we stepped in to support them.” — Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi Foreign Minister.
But the conflict stretched on, drawing in many warring sides. The Houthis and a faction in the Yemeni military that are loyal to Ali Abdullah Saleh, the country’s former president, launched a major offensive against the government.
Several dozen local militias have since emerged. They either fight for — or against the Houthis.
A full-scale proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia soon unfurled; with the two regional powers support opposing sides.
The Saudi-led operation has not helped the government win back its territory — five southern provinces have come under their control, including Aden from the rebels.
Hadi’s troops recently recaptured the Red Sea port city of Mokha. But Houthis still control the capital, and much of the northern Yemen.
Yemen was regarded as fragile even before the conflict broke out. But war has exacerbated the situation.
Around 7.3 million people are severely food insecure in the country, according to newly released preliminary results from the WFP.
“Over 17 million people are currently unable to adequately feed themselves and are frequently forced to skip meals — women and girls eat the least and last”—Jamie McGoldrick, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, said of the crisis.
Delivering humanitarian aid is an issue. Abductions are rife; and international agencies are openly targeted.
Rebels accuse the employees of having accepted and distributed aid from the Saudi-led coalition.
The country’s health system is at the mercy of heavy bombardments. 17 percent of the health facilities are completely non-functional, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
The slow-motion collapse of the economy has destroyed the ability of patients to afford their own treatment.
“There are no pensions any more. How are we supposed to pay?” pleads Mohamed El Shamaa, a gaunt leukaemia patient, reclining as he receives chemotherapy through an intravenous tube.
Medical supplies are in chronic shortage and health staff don’t receive regular salaries.
The war also destroyed the nation’s education system. More than 3,500 schools have been shut down because of direct attacks, looting and threats, according to UNICEF. Many of them were taken over by Houthi rebels for use as detention facilities, military purposes and for the storage of ammunition.
Children are being recruited as soldiers.
“Commanders from the Houthis and other armed groups should stop using children or risk prosecution for war crimes”–Fred Abrahams, HRW associate director.
“Houthi and allied forces committed serious laws-of-war violations by laying banned antipersonnel landmines, mistreating detainees, and launching indiscriminate rockets into populated areas in Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia, killing hundreds of civilians,”—HRW.
The group also accused the Saudi coalition of committing war crimes for their indiscriminate attacks and their use of internationally-banned cluster munitions.
International groups have criticised the United Kingdom and the United States for supporting Saudi Arabia—of supplying arms and coordinating attacks on civilian areas. They have also asked all sides to investigate civilian deaths in the country.
Months of talks to end the war failed to bear fruit last year.
UN peace envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed continues to push a peace plan that would restore a ceasefire and lead to a political transition in Yemen. False starts have abounded.
Late last month, he told the UN Security Council that Hadi “continues to criticise” the peace proposals without agreeing to discuss them. “And this will hinder and impede the path towards peace,” he said.
On the other hand, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir believes that blame for the failure of the peace effort lies with the Houthi forces.
“We have made more than 70 agreements with Houthis—and they have not implemented one of these agreements”—Jubeir said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the UN will continue to contribute to the political process to help end the war.
“Whatever we can do to make resurrection of the need for people to be able to negotiate, to be able to come to a solution for the Yemeni people is something that we will always be available to contribute to,” — UN chief, Antonio Guterres.
Riyadh and Tehran are locked in a battle of wills— diplomatic relations ceased in January 2016, when demonstrators stormed the Saudi Arabia’s mission to Iran to protest against the execution of a Saudi Shiite Muslim cleric.
Yemen’s peace sits in the hands of the two regional enemies.