Somalia Looks Safer for Yemenis Fleeing State Breakdown
Things are so bad in Yemen, some people are fleeing to Somalia. Yet the nation’s plight is often obscured by the carnage of Syria and spreading violence elsewhere in the Middle East.
These charts show how war, drought and hunger in the Arab world’s poorest country are pushing its people to the brink.
The 2011 overthrow of President Ali Abdullah Saleh was meant to be the start of a new chapter after decades of instability and poor governance. Instead, al-Qaeda gained ground while Shiite Houthi rebels took up arms protesting decades of marginalization and seized Sana’a. At least 5,428 people have died since March amid a Saudi-led air campaign to reinstate Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi’s government. Nearly 1.5 million others have been displaced and 114,000 have fled.
Even before the conflict, Yemen imported 90 percent of its food. Now a naval blockade has choked supplies and sent the prices of foodstuff soaring six-fold. About 13 million Yemenis have little access to food in a country that already had one of the highest levels of malnutrition in the world; half of them are on the brink of famine and half are eating just one meal a day, if that, according to the UN’s World Food Programme. Widespread hunger risks undermining Yemen’s progress in reducing its mortality rate to near the global average.
The country was already parched, on track to be first in the world to run out of water. Without power to pump potable water, many are forced to drink from unsafe sources, increasing water-related diseases such as cholera. Piles of uncollected trash are incubators for other potentially fatal illnesses. Half the population has no access to basic healthcare.
There isn’t enough money to turn the situation around any time soon. Yemen is competing with other global conflicts, such as Syria, for aid funding. The UN says it needs $1.6 billion for Yemen relief but has only received $733.6 million, a 54 percent shortfall. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, also in the military coalition, are among donors. Agencies are waiting on countries who’ve pledged to transfer the cash.
“It’s severely underfunded,” said Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Geneva. Many more people will die if that doesn’t change, “there’s no question about that.”