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Famine in Yemen

New Straits Times logo New Straits Times 22/11/2020
a large crowd of people: Yemenis bury the body of a Houthi fighter who allegedly was killed in recent fighting with Saudi-backed government forces, during a funeral procession at a cemetery in Sanaa, Yemen. - EPA pic © Provided by New Straits Times Yemenis bury the body of a Houthi fighter who allegedly was killed in recent fighting with Saudi-backed government forces, during a funeral procession at a cemetery in Sanaa, Yemen. - EPA pic

MILLIONS of Yemenis have no bread to eat yet nations at war there are buying bombs to continue a pointless civil conflict.

Famine, in some places, happens but in Yemen, it is caused.

Or in the language of the United Nations, "entirely man-made". If it is morally wrong to allow our neighbours to go to bed hungry, it must be criminal to apathetically watch millions of our fellow beings die of famine in this day and age.

If the warring nations are there to truly save the Yemenis,then they must turn in their bombs for bread.

The sad fact is that they won't. If they can continue fighting for five years ("Worst famine ever in Yemen?", NST, Nov 22), they probably won't have the sense to do so now.

Unless the Houthis backed by Iran or the pro-government coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia with some help from self-proclaimed policemen of the world, the United States, Britain and France, leave like the United Arab Emirates out of fatigue as it did in February.

Where politics fails, geopolitics takes over. Or was politics made to fail to make it easy for geopolitics to step in?

If the muddled history of the Middle East is anything to go by, the latter may be closer to the truth. If the combatants had the Yemenis in their hearts, the civil war could have been brought to an end long ago.

Instead, it has become a Syria-plus, to borrow the words of the United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, as quoted by the BBC in 2018.

Two years on, Yemen is Syria and some more. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is right to bring the world's attention to the imminent deaths of millions of Yemenis if we continue to turn a blind eye to the plight of one of the poorest people in the world.

What's disheartening is the Yemenis have very rich neighbours. The irony is those who have the money are spending it on munitions than mercy. And if they spent on the latter before, it has trickled to a stop.

Blockades of ports and other entry points are not helping either. The Houthi rebels and the pro-government forces must be blamed in equal measure.

As always, famine-stricken children are at greatest of danger.

A 2017 Brookings Institute article quotes a Unicef report as saying that one Yemeni child dies of starvation every 10 minutes.

If the estimate is right, as this Leader goes to press, 180,000 children would have died of starvation since the article was written.

Since then, malnourishment among Yemeni children has increased by 20 per cent, says Unicef, placing 2.4 million of them at risk. The sick and the aged are similarly threatened.

While waiting for the fighting to end, funding must continue. The first source of funds should be the pro-government combatants, including the countries supplying arms to them.

This means the Arab Gulf states, the US, Britain and France. And Australia, too, that ships weapons to the pro government combatants. Iran is not going to help. Doing so would mean making its role in the proxy war public.

The rest of the world needs to chip in as well. For the longer term, the civil war, or more accurately, the proxy war, needs to end. And quickly, too.

This can only happen if geopolitics is taken out of the equation. Internationalising a conflict or war only prolongs it.

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd

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