Rights Groups: 80% of Yemenis are in need of humanitarian aid due to US-backed war

Middle East
on 23 Comments

21 million people in Yemen are in need of humanitarian aid, but the world is largely ignoring it, an officer for international human rights organization Save the Children warns in an op-ed in the Guardian.

There are around 26.7 million people in Yemen, according to the World Factbook. This means approximately four-fifths of Yemenis are in need of humanitarian aid.

The Saudi-led, US-backed “war has left Yemen, already the poorest country in the region, mired in a humanitarian crisis,” writes Mark Kaye, humanitarian advocacy and communications manager for the NGO.

Violence has spread to 20 of Yemen’s 22 provinces, creating what the UN and human rights organizations call a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

The US has steadfastly supported the Saudi-led war in Yemen, in spite of numerous human rights organizations accusing the coalition of committing war crimes. In an April article warning the sale of US weapons “fuels the wars of Arab states,” the New York Times contextualized the fighting in Yemen as part of the region-wide proxy war where “Israel and the Arab states are now in a de facto alliance against Iran.” Although Israel has been nearly silent on Yemen it is clear the country’s sympathies lie with its allies in the US-backed coalition of Middle Eastern nations and forces loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who are fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

UNICEF estimates around 400 children have been killed and 600 more injured so far in the conflict. And if “we don’t act soon, thousands of children will die from hunger-related causes before the year is out,” Save the Children warns.

Kaye states “Yemen is slowly being strangled by a de facto [Saudi] blockade that prevents enough food and medicine getting to the families who need them most.”

A Yemeni boy walks past the rubble of homes destroyed by Saudi airstrikes Photo: AFP / Mohammed Huwais

A Yemeni boy walks past the rubble of homes destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes
Photo: AFP / Mohammed Huwais

The siege was imposed just days after the Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen on March 26, with weapons provided by the US, including banned cluster munitions.

Saudi Arabia defends the blockade much in the same way Israel justifies its illegal eight-year siege on Gaza, claiming it is being done to prevent weapons and ammunition from being sent to the Houthi rebels.

As Mondoweiss has reported before:

90% of Yemen’s food is imported, yet Saudi Arabia’s stringent air, water, and land blockade, in the name of preventing weapons from entering the war-torn country, has prevented not just food, but also fuel, medicine, and urgently needed aid from getting to the millions in need.

Even journalists have been denied entry by Saudi forces. The Nation foreign correspondent Matthieu Aikins explained he had to smuggle his crew in by boat from neighboring Djibouti.

In July, the head of aid group Doctors Without Borders told AFP that the blockade is “killing as [many people as] the current conflict.”

Aid and human rights organizations were already warning as early as the beginning of June that 20 million Yemenis were facing humanitarian disaster, in urgent need of food, water, and medicine. Three months later, these dire needs still persist.

According to the UN, 4,500 people have been killed in Yemen since the war broke out in March. In over 150 days of bombing, an average of 30 people have been killed per day in Yemen.

On August 30, a Saudi-led airstrike killed 36 civilians who were working at a bottling plant in northern Yemen.

Civilians have been particularly impacted by the violence. Human Rights Watch (HRW) found banned US-made cluster munition rockets used in numerous attacks on Yemeni civilians. “Cluster munitions are, by definition, indiscriminate,” HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth told Democracy Now. “They scatter over wide areas, so they should never be used in civilian-populated areas to begin with.”

Roth says Saudi Arabia is “repeatedly using indiscriminate forms of warfare” in Yemen, and maintains that “there’s not so much concern about civilians.” The Saudi government is “a major supporter of the US military complex,” he adds.

Meanwhile, as 21 million Yemenis, roughly 80% of the population, are in need of humanitarian aid, extremist groups including al-Qaeda and ISIS are taking advantage of the chaos and seizing new territory.

About Ben Norton

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer based in New York City. His work has been featured in a variety of publications. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton. His website is BenNorton.com.

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23 Responses

  1. Kathleen
    September 4, 2015, 12:31 pm

    Ben important piece. Have been going over to another stellar website “The Intercept” to read about the situation in Yemen. Not much coverage of this issue anywhere else that I have found. Not even counting numbers killed. Not much access.

    While this situation with Iran is looking constructive. U.S. support for rebels in Syria has resulted in hundreds of thousands dead, over a million refugees. Our support for SA in Yemen is doing the same.

    Thanks for this report

    • Froggy
      September 4, 2015, 6:55 pm

      The Intercept is excellent.

      • Boomer
        September 5, 2015, 10:39 am

        re: “The Intercept is excellent.”

        Yes, also JuanCole.com and Lobelog.com

      • Froggy
        September 5, 2015, 11:29 am

        I know JuanCole, but not Lobelog.com.

        I also like +972 Magazine (972mag.com)

      • K Renner
        September 5, 2015, 7:08 pm

        It is and it isn’t.

        They have people who’re rabidly pro-Russia, for example, or pro-Serb in the context of Afghanistan or Chechnya or the Balkan wars or Kosovo.

        It’s all fine and good to criticize the many flawed or malignant things that America has done and still does, but you lose your point when you say “Russia did nothing wrong in Afghanistan and Chechnya” or “but the Serbs were actually just as victimized” during the wars in which they were the worst.

    • K Renner
      September 5, 2015, 6:53 pm

      ” U.S. support for rebels in Syria has resulted in hundreds of thousands dead, over a million refugees.”

      Well here you can blame Russia and that absolute idiot Assad just as much, if not more, for the death and destruction and the refugee crisis when it comes to Syrians trying to get out of the war zone. Assad has particularly bloody hands, as do the really ideologically motivated “Assad or no one” types.

      I am of course 200% pro Palestine but I find that side discussions like these (along with say the race arguments when it comes to the most down and out blacks in America, for example) provide a recapper for me as to why I’m not anything like your “card carrying leftist” for example.

      ” Our support for SA in Yemen is doing the same.”

      It certainly doesn’t look good.

      • Kathleen
        September 6, 2015, 4:23 pm

        I agree blame Russia and Assad as well. However in our media the U.S. somehow comes out smelling like a rose even though we are partially responsible for the disaster in Syria. Fully responsible for the disaster in Iraq.

        How different it would be if the U.S. etc had sat down with Assad and said yes to the power sharing deal that the Leverett’s wrote about 5 or more years ago. Think about it

      • Froggy
        September 6, 2015, 4:49 pm

        There’s no money to be made from peace.

  2. JLewisDickerson
    September 4, 2015, 1:33 pm

    RE: “Roth says Saudi Arabia is ‘repeatedly using indiscriminate forms of warfare’ in Yemen, and maintains that ‘there’s not so much concern about civilians’. ” ~ Ben Norton

    MY COMMENT: Apparently the Saudi “Royal Family” is not satisfied with all the blood their proxies/mercenaries are spilling in Syria. How many hundreds of thousands (or millions) must die in order to satiate Saudi Arabia’s blood lust?!?!

    P.S. Let your women drive (and leave their houses unescorted by a male), Saudis! ! !

  3. Bandolero
    September 4, 2015, 4:38 pm

    Yemen’s army, Ansarullah and the resistance fight back against the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen, and that more and more effective. When the Saudi-led coalition invaded Yemen, Abdul Malek Al-Houthi said they entered a swamp. Now the swamp pulls the invaders down:

    Yemeni forces kill at least five Bahraini, 16 Saudi and 45 UAE troops in one day.


    It looks like the Saudi-led coalition just makes some of the nightmarish experiences the US has already made after it invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

  4. Kathleen
    September 5, 2015, 9:21 am

    4 comments. Telling and very sad. Somehow the value of the lives of people being in murdered does not even add up to 4 comments here at MW.

    • Froggy
      September 5, 2015, 10:10 am

      Kathleen : “Telling and very sad. Somehow the value of the lives of people being in murdered does not even add up to 4 comments here at MW.”

      I would guess that people at MW don’t know what to say, or do, or even suggest. (I know I don’t.)

      How can we pressure the Americans and/or the Saudis? I have no idea to what extent France and Britain are involved, or even if they are involved.

  5. Kris
    September 5, 2015, 12:09 pm

    Back in the day, during the Vietnam War, we knew we lived in the belly of the beast. That is still true. The U.S. sets up the conditions for tragedy, and then we sit and watch the suffering on t.v.

    From “Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe,” http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/04/regime-change-refugees-on-the-shores-of-europe/ .

    The West believes that it is acceptable for it to intervene to influence the political economy of the Third World – to force IMF-driven “reforms” on these states. Capital is allowed be borderless. That freedom does not apply to labour – to people. Migration is forbidden. It is hateful. Racist ideas allow fortresses to be built against the natural movement of people. Barbed wire fences and concentration camp towers outline the US-Mexico border, just as such fences and the Mediterranean Moat block the passage into Europe. If Capital destroys the society here, its people cannot be allowed to migrate there.

    The West believes that it is acceptable for it to overthrow governments and bomb its enemies in the lands of the Third World. It sees this as the limit of its humanitarianism. It calls this humanitarian interventionism or, in the language of the UN, “responsibility to protect” (R2P). When it breaks states, as it did in Libya, the West takes no responsibility for the broken lives of the people in those zones. Bombs are borderless. But war refugees must stand in queues and be held in concentration camps. They are not allowed freedom of movement.

    Hypocrisy is central to elite Western ethics. It uses words like “freedom” and “equality” but mostly means its opposite. The freedom of human beings and equality between human beings is not relevant. More important is the freedom of Money. It is Money that cannot have its liberty impinged.

    Both Europe and the United States want to build walls to prevent the free movement of people. The Statue of Liberty in New York harbor bears the words, “Give me your tired, your poor; your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” This is Emma Lazarus’ poem from 1883. No longer do these words make sense. There is no exhortation to send the tired, the poor, the huddled masses to safety. There is mostly the State-led jingoism that sets up barriers and threatens deportations. The more appropriate song is by Woody Guthrie, Deportee, from 1961: “They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves. We died in your hills, we died in your deserts, we died in your valleys and died on your plains.” He would have added, we died on your shores. http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/04/regime-change-refugees-on-the-shores-of-europe/

    The entire article, “Regime Change Refugees: On the Shores of Europe,” is well worth reading, and the cartoon that illustrates it is unforgettable.

  6. b.grand
    September 5, 2015, 1:31 pm

    This necessary article unfortunately repeats the false trope, ” Iran-backed Houthi rebels”. The Houthis acted despite the admonitions of the Iranians, who only after the fact were compelled to lend support. The Iranians have also sent ships with humanitarian aid, challenging the Saudi blockade. Outside interests strive to portray this as a proxy war, which it is not.

    Why the US support? At a recent Atlantic Council event one of the panelists opined (to a small group later) that it was a quid pro quo, so that the Saudis would “shut the fuck up” about the Iran deal. So, the US sees Yemenis as pawns in a bigger game (the true goal of which is yet unknown).

    What can we do? Yesterday CodePink protested the Saudi delegation in DC. https://www.facebook.com/codepinkalert/photos/pb.192052299694.-2207520000.1441470452./10153605626664695/?type=1&theater
    This is better than nothing, but why let our own government off the hook? For example, a legal case against the US for its role in cluster munitions would be more serious.

    @Kathleen and @Froggy — The lack of comments here is not too surprising. The biggest responses at MW consist of commiserating about the various angsts of being Jewish.

    • Froggy
      September 5, 2015, 3:08 pm

      B.grand : “The lack of comments here is not too surprising. The biggest responses at MW consist of commiserating about the various angsts of being Jewish.”

      It’s only the zionistas who commiserate about the various angsts of being Jewish.

    • Mooser
      September 5, 2015, 5:05 pm

      “The biggest responses at MW consist of commiserating about the various angsts of being Jewish.”

      Oh shoot, that’s probably my fault. Sorry. I’ll try to keep my angsts to myself. Nobody should know from the trouble I’ve seen.

  7. StanleyHeller
    September 5, 2015, 1:52 pm

    A new campaign started this week to end the U.S.-Saudi alliance. See http://www.SaudiUS.org It includes a petition and a lot of good article and memes. One thing exposed is the COST of the alliance. We know the arms manufacturers make out well selling guns to the Saudis, but on the whole immense amounts of U.S. taxpayer money is spent “defending” the Saudis and other Gulf tyrants. Initial sponsors of the effort are Institute for Gulf Affairs, CODEPINK, MECC, and Massachusetts Peace Action.

    • just
      September 6, 2015, 10:25 am

      Thanks for that, Stanley.

      “Civilians have been particularly impacted by the violence. Human Rights Watch (HRW) found banned US-made cluster munition rockets used in numerous attacks on Yemeni civilians”

      More war crimes. This US/Saudi alliance has got to end. Most Americans don’t know that the US is behind this terrible war, and that US weapons and planes are being used to cause death and destruction in this already poor country. Heck, they can’t even find it on a map. Meanwhile US-backed Hadi is ensconced in KSA while his country is in flames.

      (btw, the name of this massacre is the Arab Coalition’s ‘Operation Restoring Hope’ in Yemen.)

      Thanks Ben.

      • b.grand
        September 6, 2015, 11:21 am

        Not just “US weapons and planes”. The US is actively participating with ships off the coast of Yemen providing “intelligence” — which implies directing the air strikes that are killing mostly civilians.

  8. b.grand
    September 6, 2015, 4:53 pm

    “we are partially responsible for the disaster in Syria” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/09/groups-yemenis-humanitarian#comment-152972

    Kathleen, “partially” has a deplorably minimalizing ring to it. I think you greatly underestimate the impact of Obama declaring, from the first , that “Assad must go”, quickly followed by the US directly training and arming Syrian “rebels” (over the border in Turkey).

    Obama’s ultimatum and the (at that time covert) support for militancy discouraged the possibility of dialogue. Obama inspired the escalation of violence.

    Yes, what about the Leverett’s pleas for sanity. What about diplomatic pressure to follow through on Assad’s promised reforms. Russia had nothing to do with it back then (other than passively, their presence keeping US from making direct attack). I hope you don’t also blame Putin for Ukraine.

    • just
      September 7, 2015, 8:29 am

      +1, b.grand.

      Javad Zarif:

      “Iran’s Zarif: Those Demanding Assad’s Ouster ‘Are Responsible for Bloodshed in Syria’

      Calls for Assad’s resignation will only prolong civil war, Iranian FM says.

      AP – Iran’s foreign minister has criticized demands for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying such calls will prolong the Arab country’s civil war.

      Mohammad Javad Zarif says those demanding Assad’s ouster “are responsible for the bloodshed in Syria.”

      Zarif didn’t name any specific country but was likely referring to Turkey’s and Saudi Arabia’s repeated calls for Assad to step down. The two Sunni Muslim countries have supported rebels fighting against Assad. …”

      read more: http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/1.674902?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

      It’s a stupid AP article that leaves out the US altogether…

      Zarif spoke about in April, and this is from a Reuters article:

      “Western and Arab demands for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have fueled years of unnecessary bloodshed as they have prevented negotiations on a political settlement, Iran’s foreign minister said on Wednesday. …”


  9. DaBakr
    September 6, 2015, 10:36 pm

    amazed that the topic of Yemini refugees was even broached here. Haven’t seen very much if anything n Syrian war refugees either.

    Perhaps it is because with 22 Arab nations and at lest a dozen more Muslim nations that the only nations being called upon, shamed, and called racists are European states. I think there were statistics on how much aid was flowing from nations to Syrin refugees:
    It was basically US #1 and ALL the Arab nations at the bottom of the list.

    Also-number of Syrians taken in by KSA, Malaysia. Indonesia, Kuwait, Oman.etc? 0. yup Zero.

    And now Abbas wants to shame Israel for not opening up borders for the 100,000 refugees he thinks should be allowed in with no peace treaty.

    • talknic
      September 7, 2015, 1:43 am

      @ DaBakr “Also-number of Syrians taken in by KSA, Malaysia. Indonesia, Kuwait, Oman.etc? 0. yup Zero.”

      How do they get to Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kuwait, Oman? Travel overland? By boat? Magic carpet? No, people fleeing the violence of war take the most immediate and easiest route and once started have no option but to continue in the same direction

      “And now Abbas wants to shame Israel for not opening up borders for the 100,000 refugees he thinks should be allowed in with no peace treaty.”

      Abbas is asking that they be allowed into Palestine, not Israel, you stupid person

      Israel accepted Jewish refugees (Cared for by UNRWA until 1952 BTW) without any peace treaty and while it had its forces in non-Israeli territories. In fact Israel was recognized and accepted into the UN while at war in territories the Israeli Government at the time stated were “outside the State of Israel” … “in Palestine”

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