Yemen, the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, has been plagued by six years of war that has caused, according to the UN, the worst ongoing humanitarian crisis in the world.
The conflict pits the government, supported since 2015 by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, with the Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, who control vast areas of north and west as well as the capital Sanaa after an offensive in 2014.
Civilians on the front line
For six years, the conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, mainly civilians, according to humanitarian organizations.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 3.6 million people have already been forced to flee their homes since 2015.
Some 4.5 million people with disabilities face “neglect and neglect” in the face of increased hardship, according to Amnesty International (December 2019).
The NGO refers in particular to “difficult displacements”, even “abandonments and separations” of their families “in the chaos which accompanies the flight”.
“Collapse” of the health system
The already failing health system has been wiped out by the conflict.
At the end of May, several UN officials demanded urgent support for Yemen, where the situation is increasingly alarming in the face of the progression of the coronavirus pandemic.
“COVID-19 is spreading quickly” and “it is likely that the majority of regions of the country are already affected, if not all,” said the UN.
According to the NGO Save the Children, the country “is under-equipped to cope with the virus, with only half of the health facilities still operational.”
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), for its part, urged the United Nations and donor countries to mobilize in the face of the current “disaster”.
MSF, which in January deplored the “collapse” of the health system, said that the Yemenis “do not have access to drinking water, some do not have access to soap”.
The country has also been severely affected by cholera, which has killed more than 2,500 people since April 2017. About 1.2 million suspected cases have been reported, according to the WHO.
The conflict has devastated the already fragile education system, according to UNICEF. “Out-of-school children are at risk of all kinds, including being forced to participate in combat, being forced to work, or forced into early marriage.”
Before the pandemic, two million children were out of school. With COVID-19, five million more children will leave it, UNICEF said in late May.
More than 12 million children across the country are in need of humanitarian assistance.
According to Health Cluster, which brings together international NGOs and UN agencies, nearly 1.2 million children have fallen ill with cholera, diphtheria or dengue in the past three years.
According to the United Nations, the country is going through the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”: 24 million people, more than two thirds of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.
“This is a context of disaster for the whole country”, “massive impoverishment”, MSF noted in January.
The military coalition has been accused of multiple “blunders” against civilians. She admitted “mistakes”, but accuses Houthi rebels of using civilians as human shields.
In September 2019, a group of experts, established by the Human Rights Council, denounced the “multitude of war crimes” committed by the various parties.
Air attacks and indiscriminate shooting of civilians, use of starvation as a weapon of war, torture, rape, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, recruitment of children under the age of 15 …
“No one has his hands in this conflict,” said one of the UN experts.
In February, the coalition announced the start of legal proceedings against its soldiers suspected of being blundered in attacks.