Research Intern, Jindal Centre for the Global South,
O.P. Jindal Global University, India.
Middle East is historically known for being at war and having conflicts over regional, religious and ideological rivalries. These conflicts have caused Political instability and interminable human suffering but Yemen, one of the poorest countries in West Asia, represent a contemporary example of possibly the worst humanitarian crisis in history. It has been in the grip of Civil war since 2014. The famous Arab spring in 2011, was supposed to mark new beginning for Yemenis, as the youth embark on streets against the rising prices of commodities, high unemployment rate, inequality and widespread corruption in the country, but after the tragic turn of events, the protestors found themselves engulfed in a never-ending war between two regional powers namely Iran and Saudi Arabia, to establish their hegemony in the region. The ongoing conflict has brought endless human suffering and Instability in Yemen that the United Nation has termed it as the “World’s worst humanitarian catastrophe”. (McKernan, 2021)
Reasons For The Conflict
The beginning of the conflict was marked in 2011, when Yemenis rose up against Abdullah Saleh, who had been in charge for 20 years due to his incapability to control the nation’s economic situation. Due to internal unrest against Saleh, the Gulf Cooperation Council eventually oversaw the negotiations to remove Saleh from office, and the GCC agreement assisted in the installation of a new government in Yemen under the leadership of Abdarabbuh Mansur Hadi. However, the crisis was exacerbated in 2014 when President Hadi’s newly elected government decided to discontinue the fuel subsidy, subsequently causing the involvement of Houthis, a Shia insurgent group backed by Iran in the uprising against the government. The former adversaries, who were disregarded by the GCC in the establishment of the new government joined forces. The Houthis and Saleh’s allies in the army took over Saana, the capital city in 2014, and while president Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh then formed a coalition with several nations, including the UAE, to restore Hadi’s power. They began by resolutely conducting airstrikes on Yemen’s infrastructure. Western countries such as the United States, France, and the United Kingdom provide sophisticated arms and ammunition to the Saudi-led coalition. Iran, on the other hand, supports the Houthi, who adhere to Shia Islam, by giving them drones and other cutting-edge weapons. As a result, Yemen has become a battleground for two powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran. (Robinson, 2022)
Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East before the conflict, and was lagging behind in the Global Hunger Index but the proxy war in which they have been entangled since 2014 has devasted their economy, with 4.3 million people displaced and millions of people pushed to starvation and with 80% of the population living in extreme poverty with no access to safe water, sanitisation and basic health facilities. The endless bombing and air strikes initiated by Saudi Arabia -led coalitions on schools and hospitals has killed thousands of people. In short, the civilians have been systematically targeted. The women and children are one the most vulnerable group, as women and children account for estimate 77% of Yemen’s 4.3 million displaced people. Additionally, over 6.5 million women need immediate access to protection services, and 8.1 million women and young girls who are of childbearing age require assistance in obtaining reproductive healthcare facilities. Every two hours, a woman dies while giving birth due to lack of medical facilities and millions of pregnant and nursing mothers are acutely malnourished and this figure could double due to the acute food insecurity country is experiencing due to the Russia and Ukraine war. There is also widespread of various diseases like cholera and malaria. (United Nations Population Fund).
The Russia and Ukraine crisis has further aggravated the food insecurity crisis in Yemen, as the country import 40% of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine. Grain supplies, which are crucial for the majority of Yemen’s population to survive, have been severely constrained by the recent war in Ukraine. As a result of this food prices have increased sharply. Compared to the price before the war, wheat prices increased by 35%; the cost of 50 kg of wheat went from 29,000 Yemeni riyals ($22) to 41,000 Yemeni riyals ($31) after the conflict started. This has worsened the situation of Yemenis pushing millions of people to starvation. (Bahashwan, 2022)
Global North Reacting Differentely To Ukraine And Yemen Crisis
The War in Yemen is still going, and it has been eight years of continuous bombing, bloodshed and sufferings. Global North countries judge wars and conflict through their own prism of favoritism This has been widely illustrated through the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. As the refugees from Ukraine war were welcome with open arms by the western countries, but in case of the Yemen and other Middle East countries they had been reluctant to do so. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been committing war crimes by relentlessly bombing Yemen since March 2015 killing and starving thousands of innocents. This act has inflicted suffering upon Yemenis with millions of people being internally displaced and more than 18.1 million people are without any access to safe water and sanitization. Since the 2015 Refugee crisis in Middle East, the countries in European Union like Poland and Hungary have blatantly refused to accept their share of asylum seeker and most of the refugees tried to enter Poland via Belarus border and in order to prevent asylum seekers from entering, Poland built military-controlled border fences and proclaimed an emergency along its forested region’s border with Belarus, which left Yemenis and other refugees trapped in harsh conditions with no access to basic facilities. Whereas as the polish and Romanian governments opened their borders for Ukrainians and even all the countries of European union followed the same policy of allowing the citizens of Ukraine in their respective countries and arranging the food and health care facilities too. Whereas the Refugees from Yemen were turned away from the borders. The western media has not covered the plights of Yemenis citizens in the way they have widely covered the sufferings Ukrainian citizens. (Landini, 2022)
How India is helping Yemen
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has further exacerbated the fragile state of Yemen, pushing millions of people into starvation. Ukraine and Russia were source of wheat import for Yemen, but the ongoing war has disrupted the food supply chain leading to high inflation and soaring prices of wheat around the world. Due to a lack of funding and adverse global economic conditions brought on by the ongoing conflict in Russia and Ukraine, the World Food Programme has reduced its food assistance to Yemen, this step of World Food Programme has further worsened the food insecurity, Previously, the WFP was able to provide food aid to 13 million people, but now it will only be able to meet the needs of 5 million people, with the remaining 8 million receiving only 25% of their food needs met. (aljazeera , 2022) India which has always been in the forefront to provide humanitarian aid to countries in distress. has tried to mitigate the impact of Russia Ukraine war on global supply of food chain by exporting 2,50,000 tons of wheat to Yemen in the wake of soaring of food prices globally and Delhi has supported the United Nation steps to mediate between the Houthis and Yemen’s government to establish cease fire, which has led to the reduction in hostilities. India which is supporting Yemen by exporting wheat and providing financial assistance, needs to rampart its effort with other global south countries to raise the matter related to financial assistance to Yemen in International platform. And with Indian having the G20 presidency this year can ensure that matters related to financial aid to Yemen is too discussed in the meeting and there should be substantial solutions to help Yemenis. As the attention of the world has been shifted from the sad state of Yemen to Ukraine. (Business Standard , 2022)
(2022, July 12). Retrieved from Business Standard : https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/commercial-wheat-imports-from-india-key-supply-line-for-yemen-un-official-122071200128_1.html
(2022, June 27). Retrieved from aljazeera : https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/6/27/millions-of-yemenis-to-go-hungry-as-un-forced-to-slash-food-aid
Bahashwan, F. (2022, June 20). Retrieved from reliefweb : https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/impact-russian-ukrainian-war-yemen#:~:text=The%20repercussions%20of%20the%20Ukrainian,wheat%20from%20Ukraine%20and%20Russia.
Landini, I. (2022). Retrieved from The loop : https://theloop.ecpr.eu/a-welcome-for-ukrainian-refugees-but-not-those-from-the-middle-east/
McKernan, B. (2021, February 1). Retrieved from Guardian : https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/01/yemen-arab-spring-ten-years-war-cholera-coronavirus-famine
Robinson, K. (2022, october 21). Retrieved from council on Foreign relations : https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/yemen-crisis
(n.d.). United Nations Population Fund.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author (s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Jindal Centre for the Global South or its members.