This piece reflects the views of Emma Wolf, and not those of Emerald Media Group. It has been edited by the Emerald for grammar and style. Send your columns or submissions about our content or campus issues to [email protected].
I asked two questions: what do you know about the civil war in Yemen, and how is the United States involved? The responses I got included, “Not a whole lot,” “Pretty much nothing,” “I’ve heard very little” and “I think we’re doing drone strikes there.”
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen as a result of this war is astounding. According to the United Nations, at least 22.2 million people — 75 percent of the country’s population — are in need of humanitarian assistance. According the the United Nations, there is a massive cholera outbreak that far surpasses the medical attention available for the sick and “severe acute malnutrition is threatening the lives of 400,000 children under the age of five.”
I asked these questions to a handful of randomly selected individuals at the Valley River Center last Friday. I myself knew nothing about the conflict until two weeks ago. The numbers from the UN paint a picture of an entire country in turmoil, sickness and devastation. So, why don’t people know about it?
During the Arab Spring of 2011, the Yemeni people ousted then-President Saleh because of the extreme poverty characterizing the country. However, removing Saleh for President Hadi — vice president at the time — failed. The transition yielded greater suffering for the country, and Yemen divided in conflict: those loyal to the Hadi administration, and the Houthis, a group loyal to Saleh.
When the Houthis took the capital of Sanaa in 2014 and moved toward taking the rest of the country, Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia, which saw the rebels as a threat. Saudi Arabia then formed a Saudi-led coalition; this includes the United States, who assists Saudi Arabia with weapons, intelligence and logistics.
The coalition attacks the Houthis, but a huge number of civilians are attacked in the process. According to Rolling Stone, “Hospitals, schools, mosques and other non-military locations have been destroyed indiscriminately.” Decimated infrastructure and severe lack of aid workers has led to what the UN calls the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” with millions affected by displacement, starvation and cholera.
It’s not a mystery to the Yemeni people who is propagating these conditions. Jane Ferguson from PBS smuggled herself into rebel-controlled territory in Yemen, speaking to those on the front lines of violence. Dr. Ali Al Motaa said, “The missiles that kill us, American-made. The planes that kill us, American-made. You are saying to me, where is America? America is the whole thing.”
The sheer number of people dying and struggling every day in this war-torn, disease-ridden country is shocking to me, and everybody in America needs to be shocked too.
We need to wake up from the numbness we’ve developed to the relentless reporting of tragedy, step into the conflict, realize the news we receive isn’t giving us the full picture and demand more. The reality of the countless conflicts in this world is painful, but it is reality. We should have access to knowledge on the people and places that lack news coverage in America, as well as develop a nationwide willingness to delve into those sources of knowledge.
A well-educated body of people united by a thirst for action can yield a stronger impact than a scattered group of indifferent individuals. The average person’s knowledge of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis should not be “not a whole lot.”