Yemen faces crisis amidst famine

As of this report, in Yemen, food and the right to live are in short support supply for their citizens. According to Hannah Summers’s article from The Guardian, the United Nations (UN) reports that there is a possibility that civilians in Yemen could face “the worst famine in 100 years, if airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition are not halted.”

Within the same source, it is estimated that around “12 to 13 million civilians” risk starvation due to a lack of goods. While the health crisis is going on, a civil war between Houthi rebels and Saudis reigns upon Yemen as it has for  “three years.”

Found on the UN’s website,, under the rule of law and development, it calls “for sustained and inclusive economic growth, sustainable development, the eradication of poverty and hunger and the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.” With this statement, the UN is obligated to stop the spread of poverty and enforce human rights for individuals that need it.

Under these conditions, Yemen civilians are faced with the issue of malnutrition. According to, the case of malnutrition “involves a dietary deficiency.” This means that an individual is unable to be given the right amount of nutrients for their diet. Also, malnutrition causes the body to take a long time to fully recover in cases of injury or disease.

In addition to malnutrition, famine and a Yemeni civil war threatening the fabric of Yemen society, there is a “collapse of the economy and the breakdown of the health system,” as stated by Maggie Michael from the Associated Press of Christian Science Monitor.  In effect, based on the same source, the ongoing war in Yemen has left “more than 10,000 civilians dead, driven millions from their homes and sparked a cholera epidemic,” continues Michael.

Cholera, as defined by, is an “infectious disease that causes severe watery diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration and even death if untreated.” This disease can be caused by ingesting food or drinking water contaminated with this bacterium.

Questions that arise from the health crisis and the ongoing civil war are, “why did this crisis happen?”, “How would this crisis and the ramifications of malnutrition along with the dangers of war impact WCU students?” and “What can be done for the civilians of Yemen?”

Professor Elizabeth Urban, a history professor who teaches world history and the Islamic world at WCU mentions that the reason for the ongoing civil war has to do with “geopolitics.”  “In Yemen, the reason for the food scarcity is that their government might be allocating food to soldiers to support them,” Urban explained.

In the grounds of history, Professor Urban recalls that “the worst epidemic in recent memory that comes to mind in association with Yemen is the humanitarian crisis of Somalia of 1992. Currently, the Somalis are still struggling with famine.”

For Arabs in Syria, their humanitarian crisis was “the Ottoman Empire and the First World War,” continued Professor Urban…

“Around that time, the Arabs remembered that time period as a time of starving — which led to cannibalism and significant effect …  to moral, social and economic issues.”

Regarding famine, Professor Urban explains that famine “does not happen because of lack of food, but due to geopolitics and drought conditions.”

To assist Yemen, Professor Urban explains that there are “charity and other organizations working to help Yemen, such as UNICEF, IRC and Doctors without Borders.” A challenge remains in that the infrastructure of Yemen will not allow proper placement of supplies and aid to reach the urban areas.

For WCU students, Urban urges that “they can either donate, or volunteer.” In regard to a petition, “it is very complicated, since Saudi Arabia is seen by the US as an ally.” At the present time, the US is not assisting Yemen.

Essentially, the crisis in Yemen will not go away anytime soon. To Professor Urban, the situation in Yemen is in a “dire condition” with no imminent sense of stopping.

Nicholas Bartelmo is a third-year student majoring in History.

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