Yemen (MNN) — 12 million people face starvation as Yemen teeters on the brink of famine. The executive director of the UN’s food program told the General Assembly on Thursday, “Yemen is undeniably the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by far.”
Civil war is turning Yemen into rubble, and forces controlling the ports aren’t letting food aid go through. MNN spoke with Peter Jensen*, a believer who works with an aid group in the region.
“Every year, every month that the war goes on, the situation gets worse. There’s more infrastructure damaged, there’s less access to resources by the average citizen; less access to food.”
What’s going on in Yemen?
Initially triggered by the Arab Spring of 2011, Yemen’s civil war escalated in 2015 when rebel forces overthrew the government. A coalition force led by Saudi Arabia soon stepped in and began fighting Houthi rebels for control. As months turned into years, more nations got involved and the suffering of the Yemeni people rose to new heights.
While brief, this summary of facts fails to explain the intricacy of the Yemen crisis. Multiple “moving pieces” make it hard to say exactly how and why things deteriorated to this point.
“It’s hard for me to understand, having lived there… and seeing this first-hand, let alone someone from the outside trying to understand it,” says Jensen.
“In the West, we like a simple story. You know, ‘who’s the good guy? Who’s the bad guy? We’ll get behind the good guy against the bad guy.’
“In Yemen, it’s much more complicated than that. ‘Who’s on which side at what point, and why?’ It is a very complex situation.”
Why is the Yemen crisis so complicated?
There is no single answer to this question, Jensen explains, but there are several contributing factors.
Houthi rebels supported by Iran are battling coalition forces backed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the West for governmental control of Yemen. This political factor also contains a religious element, as the coalition forces primarily follow Sunni Islam. Iran, which supports the Houthi rebels, adheres to Shiite Islam.
These political and religious factors are closely followed by geography. The Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, and Arabian Sea border two sides of Yemen, while Saudi Arabia and Oman enclose the other half.
“To a large degree, I think that Saudi Arabia doesn’t want an Iranian presence right on their border,” notes Jensen.
Yemen’s southern waterfront access also poses strong appeal to the coalition.
“They seem to be most concerned about controlling shipping routes. They want to solidify their presence and control in those places.”
At press time, a battle for control of the key port city Hodeidah was ongoing. Aid workers issued serious warnings regarding the threats this conflict posed to Hodeidah civilians:
“Civilians are under fire from all warring factions. If the offensive sweeps into Hodeidah city, tens of thousands of civilians risk being caught in the crossfire. If fighting blocks any more major roads, it will sever the lifeline to over 20 million Yemenis who depend on supplies through Hodeidah port to survive…
“Many of the people left in Hodeidah city don’t have anywhere to go. They don’t have enough money to live, let alone leave. The cost of food, water and transport are now completely unpredictable; if you can afford bread on Monday, there’s no guarantee you will be able to on Tuesday.”
Tomorrow, we’ll take a closer look at how the Yemen crisis is affecting believers. Would you keep Yemen in your prayers?
First, pray for peace.
“That (peace) seems impossible when you really get into the issues and where the different sides are coming from,” Jensen explains, “so, we need to pray that God would do the impossible.”
Second, ask the Lord to those who are helping survivors in Yemen. They are demonstrating Christ’s love by meeting physical needs. But, some of the complexities explained above make for a difficult situation on-the-ground. It’s extremely difficult to get supplies to the people who need them.
“Yeah, we absolutely want to throw up our hands and walk away – if it weren’t for the suffering we’re seeing,” says Jensen.
*- Name changed for security purposes.
Header photo courtesy of 8thirty8 via Facebook.