On Friday, Amal Hussain, a 7-year-old girl, died of starvation in a refugee camp in northern Yemen. The picture of her malnourished body led to international attention and outcry and for a brief while at least, saw a renewed focus on the Saudi-led aggression in Yemen. “My heart is broken” Amal’s mother was quoted as saying “Now I’m worried for my other children”. Amal was photographed while being treated at a mobile clinic run by UNICEF in Aslam in the Hajaa governorate.
The Saudi-led offensive, backed by the United States, United Kingdom and France against the Yemeni Revolutionary Committee, led by the Houthi community has been going on since April 2015. The war has caused widespread destruction of Yemen’s civilian infrastructure, pushing the country to the brink of an humanitarian catastrophe.
Saudi Arabia launched the invasion in support of the Yemeni president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was deposed by the Houthis in 2015. The invasion was launched along with the support of eight other countries – United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan. They were also aided by the infamous private American militia, Academi (the successor to Blackwater). Qatar was part of the alliance until 2017, but after relations deteriorated between and it and Saudi Arabia, it switched sides and even offered some limited logistical and intelligence support to the Houthis. The invasion was also accompanied by an undeclared blockade on the war-torn country that has taken a toll on millions.
The foreign invasion included targeted bombings on Yemen’s civilian infrastructure, including roads, hospitals, and systems for water distribution and sanitation. Along with the bombings and the blockade, Yemen has been facing a severe food shortage and a country-wide medical emergency. According to some estimates, the food shortage in Yemen has pushed anywhere between 13 to 20 million civilians into starvation. Some 1.8 million children are reported to be malnourished and more than 50,000 children like Amal have died out of starvation. Last month, the United Nations called the situation the worst famine in over a century.
The blockade and bombing of the nation’s public health and sanitation infrastructure has caused a series of cholera outbreaks since 2016. According to some reports, over 1 million people are suspected to have been affected by the epidemic and anywhere between 2,000 to 3,000 deaths are estimated. Many experts have pointed out that the death toll is likely to be way higher. The World Health Organisation has called this among the worst epidemics in recorded human history.
The Saudi offensive continues unabated. The recent repeated incidents of bombing by Saudi jets, the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the heart rending fate of Amal have led to a greater scrutiny of Saudi Arabia and calls for an end to western aid to the country. Whether these calls will bear fruit or Saudi Arabia and its allies will continue to get away with their impunity remains to be seen.