I was last in Yemen almost a decade ago, and while it is a true privilege to be back in this beautiful country, my return here is marked by a deep sadness at what I have seen this week.
Back then, it was easy to walk the streets of Sana’a, visit coffee shops, and walk through Yemen’s beautiful landscape without the constant fear of guns and bombs that has become a tragic daily reality for the men, women and children who call Yemen their home.
The innocent people of Yemen are trapped within a complex network of different national, regional and international competing vested interests, resulting in violent and deadly outcomes for which they alone suffer.
Since the start of the conflict, thousands have died, and millions more have been displaced – often over and over again, as they struggle to find safety in ever shifting dynamics of conflict.
Only this week, 20 people were killed by airstrikes while trying to flee fighting on the ground, many of whom were children, and many from the same family.
And it is this, the total and complete ambivalence to human tragedy and lost life that must end.
Only bold leadership from the players in this conflict, both home and abroad, can make that happen – indeed it is their moral, and legal, responsibility to do so.
Yemen has never been a rich country, yet the current – and seemingly never ending – conflict is having a profound effect on the people’s ability to access the very basic means of survival; food, health care and clean water.
Today, following three years of escalated conflict 60% of the country is food insecure, and over half the population is unable access safe drinking water.
A crippled economy and escalating unemployment further means that today, 80% of families in Yemen are in debt and having to borrow money to feed their children.
Secretary General and CEO Dr Wolfgang Jamann visits communities in Hajjah, northern province Yemen, to see CARE’s WASH activities and speak to local communities in the area. Dr Jamann’s visit ended with a press conference in Sana’a
Children are starving and getting sick, and their families can neither afford to treat them, or feed them adequately, and this problem is deteriorating fast. Many areas in Yemen are just a step away from famine.
The UN recently reported that one person will now die from cholera each and every hour, indeed one more life will be lost by the time we end this conference.
As the world waits for the political will and desire to change; in terms of immediate response, the current food insecurity and access to water are intrinsically linked to the hunger and cholera crisis, you cannot sustainably control the latter, without simultaneously addressing the former.
While immediate humanitarian needs are extreme, longer term investment in people’s resilience is also required if we are to prevent this country from sinking completely, and taking its people with it.
But funding here is falling woefully short of the mark. There is a current 1.2 billion funding gap – and despite commitments made at a donor pledging conference in Geneva in April, much of the promises made there have not been kept. A major step-up by the international community is needed if a catastrophe is to be prevented.
Finally, when we read or hear about Yemen, it is often in relation to complex politics and, for some, it can all too often seem difficult to understand. So it is important to hear a different narrative, perhaps a simpler one.
Everywhere I have been this week, I have been deeply touched by the warmth, hospitality and kindness shown to me here – people with nothing will offer all that they have to a stranger, such as myself.
Yes, this is a poor country, but perhaps that is because here, family and community is more highly valued than wealth or prosperity, where taking care of each other is a first priority – this, for me, makes their suffering even harder to bear.
The current situation here, in this the 21st Century is an absolute shame on humanity. How can it be that in a country like Yemen guns and weapons seem plentiful, yet doctors and teachers have been paid no wages in months?
This must stop. As humanitarians, donors, politicians or simply just as people; we cannot allow this to happen on our watch, we must all stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Yemen and end their suffering, starting today.
Connect with Dr Wolfgang Jamann on Twitter @wjamann
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