The U.S. is deeply complicit in the formation of a situation that “looks,” in the words of the United Nations’ humanitarian chief, “like the Apocalypse.” UNICEF reported last year that a child dies from preventable diseases on the average of once every 10 minutes in Yemen.
As the Associated Press (AP) reported last May, at least 3 million Yemeni women and children are “acutely malnourished; another 400,000 children are fighting for their lives.” Further:
“Nearly a third of Yemen’s population — 8.4 million of its 29 million people — rely completely on food aid or else they would starve. That number grew by a quarter over the past year…Aid agencies warn that parts of Yemen could soon start to see widespread death from famine. More and more people are reliant on aid that is already failing to reach people. …It is unknown how many have died, since authorities are not able to track cases. Save the Children late last year estimated that 50,000 children may have died in 2017 of extreme hunger or disease (emphasis added), given that up to 30 percent of children with untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition die.”
The AP reported the heartbreaking story of Umm Mizrah and her children, tragic drops in the bucket of what could become one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes of the last half-century:
“The young mother stepped onto the scale for the doctor. Even with all her black robes on, she weighed only 84 pounds …The doctor’s office is covered with dozens of pictures of emaciated babies who have come through Al-Sadaqa Hospital in Aden …Mothers like Umm Mizrah…skip meals, sleep to escape the gnawing in their stomachs. They hide bony faces and emaciated bodies in voluminous black abaya robes and veils…The doctor asked the mother to get back on the scale holding her son, Mizrah. At 17 months, he was 5.8 kilograms (12.8 pounds) — around half the normal weight for his age. He showed all the signs of ‘severe acute malnutrition,’ the most dire stage of hunger. His legs and feet were swollen, he wasn’t getting enough protein. When the doctor pressed a finger into the skin of his feet, the indentation lingered.”
In the last two and half months, things have gotten worse. According to Lise Grande, head of the UN humanitarian effort in Yemen, “8.5 million people that we describe as being pre-famine… when they wake up in the morning, they have no idea if they will eat that day…by the end of this year, another 10 million Yemenis will be in that situation.”
Two and a half weeks ago, special PBS correspondent Jane Ferguson related the plight of Maimona Shaghadar, who “suffers the agony of starvation in silence. No longer able to walk or talk, at 11 years old, little Maimona’s emaciated body weighs just 24 pounds…Every day,” a nurse spoke to Ferguson in a remote Yemen hospital, medical personnel “see these sorts of cases.”
Cholera, a prominent 19th-century disease, has become an epidemic there, particularly after the collapse of water sanitation. Cholera has already claimed the lives of thousands of Yemeni civilians, children mostly, and a million Yemenis are currently infected. Yemen is currently home to what Ferguson calls “the worst cholera outbreak in modern history. Now every time the rains comes, people fall ill.”