SEATTLE, Washington — For the past five years, a civil war between the national government between the Saudi led coalition of Arab countries and Houthi rebel groups has engulfed Yemen. This war has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world. Between the Stockholm Agreement and humanitarian aid, Yemen may be able to start the process of healing.
While reports state that 10 thousand civilians have died, sources say this figure could be nearly six times greater. Since June 2018, the death toll has risen by 164 percent as violence increases. Citizens are not just dying from bombs and bullets but from hunger and poverty caused by the war. Yemen is currently facing the worst cholera outbreak in recorded history and it is nearly impossible to treat without medicine and food.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) states that more than half of the Yemeni population, 16 million people, are facing extreme food insecurity. Other sources say that 22 million people are facing starvation and in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Yemen is on the brink of famine and plague.
With airstrikes making landfall every 99 minutes, bridges and roads leading to Yemen’s port city, Hodeidah, are almost completely nonexistent. This blockade makes it nearly impossible to transport food, water and supplies. Since Yemen imports nearly 90 percent of its food sources, the country is now facing severe food shortages on top of the famine crisis.
With Houthi rebels and the government fighting for control of this food source, warfare has caused fires that have damaged or cut off access to the remaining grain silos in Hodeidah. These silos hold the majority of the grain Yemen has left. What can be done to solve this crisis? The United Nations and other humanitarian aid organizations are coming together to save Yemen from further catastrophe.
The Stockholm Agreement
At the end of December 2018, the United Nations hosted peace talks in Sweden between the Yemeni government and the leader of the Houthi rebel group. Both parties agreed that the war had raged far too long and violence in the port city needed to stop in order to bring humanitarian aid to civilians. While it is clear that the two groups clash on diplomacy, making food distribution and production must be a top priority.
Another element of the Stockholm Agreement is the Hodeidah Agreement. This compromise calls for a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah where the majority of the conflict takes place. Demilitarization would allow the U.N. to gain access to the port and start reconstruction and aid distribution. However, even with this peace resolution, violence in Yemen still persists at tremendous levels. For the Stockholm Agreement to take full effect, the U.N. will have to put more pressure on the combatting parties to comply.
On February 27, 2019, Yemen granted the U.N. and World Food Programme (WFP) entry to the damaged Red Sea Mills grain silo plant near Hodeidah. By gaining control of the silos, the U.N. and WFP may be able to salvage 51 thousand tonnes of grain to be distributed throughout Yemen. To keep control of the silos and increase production, the U.N. calls for international support. It launched the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) to provide humanitarian aid, medicine, food and water to Yemen’s citizens. The plan requests $4 billion from international donors and many countries have rushed in to help, including the United States.
Other Forms of Aid
After years of supporting the Saudi and Yemeni leadership throughout the conflict, the U.S. has officially announced it will end military involvement in the conflict. Alternatively, the U.S. government is giving $24 million dollars, in addition to the more than $700 million given since 2017, to humanitarian organizations to support those in need. Part of this will go to the WFP to save the grain silos.
Food for Peace is another U.N. initiative raising funds to save Yemen from this tragedy. These funds will go directly to U.N. partners such as the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to treat children suffering from malnutrition and cholera, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to combat food insecurity and rebuild the agriculture industry and the WFP to provide food assistance vouchers to those in desperate need. The U.N. hopes to reach eight million people with these emergency food assistance vouchers each month in the hopes of averting starvation.
There is no reversing the damage Yemen has suffered, but the U.N. hopes to provide enough support to end the political conflict. Ending the war in Yemen is the only way to save its people. With the United States terminating military support, there may finally be a chance to end the suffering. Progress is being made and there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but more work needs to be done. The Stockholm Agreement is just the beginning.
– Becca Cetta