Yemen devastated while the world looks away

Two children holding plastic jugs walk away from the camera past a pile of rubble. One of the children is looking over her shoulder smiling.
On July 16, 2020, two children in Taiz City carry containers for water, a scarce commodity, to fill and bring back home. PHOTO: Shutterstock
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After five years of a quasi-civil war whose roots lie in western imperialism’s desire to protect fossil fuel routes on the Red Sea, the Yemeni people now face the deathly specter of the coronavirus.

The years of conflict have left tens of thousands dead and millions internally displaced without access to food, medicine, or clean water. Instead of sending humanitarian aid, especially in the light of the global pandemic, the U.S. and Europe have been helping the Saudis bomb the country to smithereens, a highly profitable form of mass destruction. Last year U.S. arms dealers sold over $8 billion in military equipment to Saudi Arabia.

Now it is imperative the world working class act in solidarity with the Yemeni people to divert the manmade and natural catastrophe that is descending on the country daily.

War by proxy. All the players in this disaster have their own interests. President Trump and the European Union want to keep the Bab el-Mandeb Strait open for oil transit since millions of barrels pass through it daily. They have a made a deal with the Saudis to lead a fraudulent “coalition” to fight the war for them, showering military advice, intelligence support, and precision-guided munition on their forces. The Saudis, on the other hand, are using what started out as a civil war in Yemen to establish themselves as a regional power broker against Iran.

In the first half of 2020, the Saudis doubled their bombing raids in Yemen. Forty percent hit civilian targets — hospitals, water wells, schools, homes, factories and markets. Now there are only 7.1 hospital beds per 10,000 people in Yemen when there should be 270. And due to Covid-19 travel bans as well as the blockades by Saudi Arabia, Yemeni doctors have little medicine, supplies or equipment to confront the pandemic.

Conditions ripen for Covid-19 spread. When the rainy season hits Yemen, it brings flooding and cholera outbreaks. This year cholera has become an epidemic. Shockingly, there is also a new polio flare-up spreading in the northwest, but vaccines and medicine are in short supply.

Earlier this summer, a “once in a generation” flood caused 35,000 families to lose their homes. They joined an estimated 3.6 million people displaced by the war, many of whom live in crowded camps used by Somali and other refugees — camps that are fertile ground for the spread of the coronavirus and other diseases.

Meanwhile a deteriorating 45-year old tanker, with a little over a million barrels of crude oil, sits near the western coast of Yemen threatening to dump its cargo into the Red Sea. Should it spill, it would poison the coastline and close Yemen’s main port in a disaster four times worse than the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill in Alaska.

In spite of the bombings, epidemics, and environmental dangers faced by the people of Yemen, hunger is the most feared threat. Vast swarms of locusts destroyed crops this year pushing 20 million Yemenis to the brink of starvation. The resulting famine has forced even more families into camps, creating a lethal “red carpet” welcome for the virus.

With the majority of hospitals destroyed and few healthcare workers, it is impossible to test for or track the actual number of cases of Covid-19. Increasing shortages of fuel for generators means there is no electricity to run ventilators, even if there were any available.

At press time there are 1,950 confirmed coronavirus cases with 564 deaths according to U.N. data. However, the World Health Organization predicts the virus could infect 55 percent of the population and 4.8 million people could die. That’s more than the entire population of Los Angeles!

A country abandoned. Humanitarian aid to Yemen is dwindling as countries focus on their own pandemic and economic crises. The U.N. has cut 31 of its 41 aid programs and the World Health Organization has slashed 80 percent of its funding for Yemen. Trump has also halted $70 million in promised aid, and most NGOs are pulling out due to the dangerous conditions.

Sputtering peace talks have again stalled, and with little to no aid or personnel getting through Saudi blockades, the people of Yemen are facing genocide — hostages to the imperialist powers’ insatiable hunger for profits from war and oil.

Congress made a few weak attempts to end the undeclared war on Yemen and to halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, but Trump vetoed the effort and arms shipments continue.

Today, dockworker unions and activists in Europe are still blocking some military shipments from ports in Belgium, France and Italy, and a July protest in London called for ending the Saudi blockades and ending the war. But the whole horrendous situation in Yemen is largely ignored in the western media.

Only enormous international working class solidarity will save the men, women and children of Yemen. Clearly, the imperialists don’t give a damn about the destruction of the land, the sea or the people. For them, Yemen is expendable, just a means to an end, and the cost of doing business.

So it is up to us, the international working class, to come to their aid. Governments must be forced to stop all arms shipments and end blockades. Healthcare workers, builders, equipment, fuel, food, water and medicine must be immediately delivered to Yemen. And most important, workers around the world must collaborate to overthrow global capitalism — the cause of so much needless suffering — and establish socialism.

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