Opinion: Global Media Has Failed to Educate People About the Severity of the Yemen Humanitarian Cris

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

24 million people. 12 million children. One country, engulfed in poverty, as the largest humanitarian crisis in the world is overlooked and ignored.

With the COVID-19 outbreak, the situation in Yemen has only gotten more dire. Sanitation and clean water are in short supply, and only half of all health facilities are functioning; those that are remaining operational lack basic equipment like masks and gloves, let alone oxygen and other essential supplies to treat the coronavirus. Many health workers are receiving no salaries or incentives, and 10.2 million children don’t have access to basic healthcare.

Tens of thousands of children in Yemen have died, both as a direct result of the fighting, as there are 35 frontlines still active across the country, and also from indirect causes like disease and malnutrition. It would not be unreasonable to proclaim this as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The nation’s health services are on the verge of collapse, and the economy has been ravaged.

The conflict has been dubbed a “proxy war” among competing powers in the Middle East. The Civil War has claimed more than 16,000 lives and left 13 million people on the brink of starvation, and with COVID-19, the situation continues to decline. Saudi Arabia led a coalition (an alliance of countries) to oust the President of Yemen, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, due to economic and political grievances.

As a result of the war, but also the coalition’s economic warfare on the country (such as seizing control of Yemen’s oil and gas fields in the east and southern provinces and moving the Central Bank from Sana’a to Aden), Yemen’s currency, the rial, has plummeted to its lowest rate. In comparison to foreign currencies, it has fallen by 12 percent since the start of 2020 to 800 rials (compared to the US dollar) since the start of the war in March 2015, and there are international warnings of further falls.

International health officials have said Yemen’s population could be extremely vulnerable to an outbreak. However, it would be difficult to detect the outbreak in the country, as Yemen’s health infrastructure has been destroyed by years of civil war.

In addition to the threat of COVID-19, Yemen is also suffering an outbreak of the mosquito-transmitted Chikungunya virus and there are more than 100,000 known cholera cases across the nation, which suggests that a lot of drinking water has been contaminated.

Education is also being affected. Before COVID-19, around 2 million children were out of school. Now, because of the pandemic, schools have been closed throughout Yemen, leaving some 7.8 million children unable to access education.

As the coronavirus spreads, tens of thousands more children in Yemen could develop life-threatening severe acute malnutrition over the next six months, while the overall number of malnourished children under the age of five could increase to a total of 2.4 million.

Unlike the current Yemen crisis which has not been getting much coverage on global media, the Syrian humanitarian crisis has received more attention. These two situations may seem too different to compare at first, but if you notice the number of Yemeni refugees (2.1 million) compared to Syrian refugees (496,700), the impact of the respective situations is almost similar. Both countries faced warfare for years, while the economy and health of their citizens declined, leading to more people choosing to flee from their country.

From 2015 to 2018, the European Union (EU) and European countries have provided $1.56 billion in aid to the UN Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP), while providing roughly fifty percent more for Syria during the same period, $3.2 billion.

European countries may have been paying more attention to the Syrian crisis due to a fear of Syrian refugees fleeing to the EU which has prompted many of them to provide more aid to Syria. This is also true of the other major donors to the UN campaigns such as the USA, Canada and the Arabian Gulf countries, which are all strategic allies of Europe.

There have been signs of people fleeing from Yemen and in the last 5 years, more than 3.6 million people have been displaced from their homes. Although the situation needs more attention right now, it is possible that Syria’s crisis had greater coverage because the U.S. and some of the EU was directly involved. As an example, the U.S. got involved in the war without permission from Syria and supported Jordanian forces.

“A dangerous combination of conflict, economic hardship, food scarcity and a crumbling health system has pushed millions of children in Yemen to the brink, and the COVID-19 crisis could make things even worse,” said Sherin Varkey, UNICEF’s acting Representative in Yemen.

Acute food insecurity in Yemen is one of the largest concerns, since so many are currently facing hunger for long periods of time. Other areas of attention are rehabilitating water infrastructures since the country has no large freshwater sources and supporting farmers who lost their crops and pasture due to pest and climate shocks.

Although Syria’s history of wars has been worse and more severe at the time compared to Yemen’s wars and crisis, Yemen has been continuously dealing with a problematic government.

The humanitarian crisis taking place right now is affecting most of the country and children are dealing with the worst of it. The economy is flailing and resources are nowhere to be found, because there simply isn’t enough awareness of how dire the situation has become.

Global media has become biased to only concerns that involve them. It seems logical that large countries would gain more coverage, since they have a larger effect on other countries and depend on the products of other countries. However, smaller countries are often self-dependent and may not have as much power. They would not have such a large impact on global media, which makes it harder for them to gain assistance.

As Yemen continues to drown in its national crisis, the least the public can do is educate themselves on ways to do their part and help. The severity of the situation is severely undermined in common media.

Through Teen Lenses: Do you know about the Yemen Humanitarian Crisis? If so, what are your opinions on the current efforts to alleviate the situation? Do you believe the previous Syrian crisis gained more attention from global media? Why?

“I actually haven’t really heard much about the Yemen crisis, which is surprising because I know that there is a crisis. All I know is that it has been going on for a while but I truly haven’t heard much about it in at least 2 years.” – Radha Vinayak, Rising Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Fairfax, VA
“I am aware about the Yemen crisis. I became aware both through social media and conversations with my family. Due to this time period, I believe the only way I can help is through donations to companies who will provide relief to the people in Yemen. Additionally, I am less informed on the Syrian crisis, however, this could have been due to the fact that I only recently became involved in current global issues. So, I am unaware if the Syrian crisis received more attention.” – Amrith Ranjan, Rising Sophomore at Briar Woods High School/Academy of Science, 15, Ashburn, VA
“I don’t know much about the humanitarian crisis that is currently occurring in Yemen; however, the little information I know came from social media. This issue is not getting the attention it needs, and enough and the crisis is not receiving enough aid.” – Anonymous, Rising Sophomore at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, 15, Ashburn, VA
“I believe that the Yemen crisis is getting a lot more recognition than it previously has, but the crisis has been going on for almost a decade now so I think it could be getting more attention since it obviously needs more and more resources all the time. Also I’ve noticed that the younger generation has been raising a lot of awareness and money for the cause but people that have more money to donate should be investing more in the cause. I personally have heard more about the Yemen crisis, I believe that’s because a lot of these issues are now being brought to light in the US, such as police brutality, the Lebanon crisis, mistreatment of Muslims in China, etc. Although the crisis is getting more recognition on social media, the press and news stations are not picking up stories about the crisis and the condition that Yemen is in right now. I believe that if the news spoke about this more often, the older generation would be more aware of it and try to educate themselves/donate more to Yemen.” – Tara Pandey, Rising Sophomore at McLean High School, 15, McLean, VA