One Child Dies Every 10 Minutes in Yemen


Photograph: Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters

Gia Shin, Staff Writer

Yemen is currently in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Eighty percent of the population—24 million people—is in need of humanitarian services. The national emergency has forced millions of people out of their already unsanitary homes and into even more squalid conditions. The crisis can be traced back to years of conflict and a deadly cholera outbreak. Since 2016, Yemen has been facing the worst cholera epidemic in modern history. The Weekly Epidemiological Monitor reported a cumulative total of 2,188,503 cases as of December 2019. The cholera epidemic continues to plague the nation to this day.

How could an outbreak of this magnitude even occur? 

Yemen has been at its breaking point for a while now. Even before the outbreak, about half of all children under the age of five showed signs of acute malnutrition, obstructing the possibility of prevention and control of cholera in Yemen. The effects of the disease, as well as the ongoing war with Saudi Arabia, have decimated the country’s medical facilities: at least half of them are considered to be defective, and their health care system has essentially crumbled. Additionally, “an estimated 30,000 dedicated local health workers who play the largest role in ending this outbreak have not been paid their salaries for nearly 10 months,” according to the UNICEF executive director and WHO director in 2017. These devastating effects were largely caused by a civil war that broke out in the country.

There are no signs of the war abating as Yemen enters its sixth year of the armed conflict. War broke out in 2015 between the Houthi movement and Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi government.

After the Arab Spring—a series of protests across the Middle East—ousted several dictators, Yemen also demanded change. In 2011, president Ali Abdullah Saleh was forced to hand over power to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, his deputy. However, this political transition, which was meant to bring stability to the country, failed. Suicide bombings, tremendous unemployment, and a separatist movement in the south followed the political succession to initiate war. On the one hand, the Houthis, backed by Iran, are loyal to former president Saleh. After they took over Yemen’s capital, the Houthi forces wanted to control the entire country, forcing Hadi to flee Yemen and seek refuge in Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, those loyal to the new Hadi government fought back. Saudi Arabia recognized the Houthis as a threat and feared that it would lead Iran to invade their border. In an attempt to drive the Houthis out, Saudi Arabia initiated a military campaign with the help of several nations. They started to bomb the country, which had a devastating impact: the airstrikes destroyed crucial water systems, food infrastructure, and schools. According to the WHO, 14.5 million people were cut off from access to clean water and sanitation due to the Saudi-led intervention against the Houthis. Thus, the restrictions on food and fuel imports spurred a devastating famine.

The current famine in Yemen has been at its worst for 100 years, and it continues to affect more people. Over 20 million Yemenis are experiencing food insecurity. Floods have also contributed to the worsening of the situation. The floods are ripping homes apart, destroying the remaining  food supplies, and contributing to the spread of diseases.

Additionally, COVID-19 cases in Yemen are rising daily, and the WHO estimates it will affect 55% of the population. The virus is very difficult to trace, as there are not nearly enough tests available. “The death toll from the pandemic could ‘exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years [in Yemen],’” reports Lisa Grande, the head of U.N. humanitarian operations in Yemen. Basic protection equipment such as gloves and masks is unavailable, leaving Yemenis especially vulnerable to the coronavirus. Furthermore, the New York Times stated that patients at hospitals were euthanized, causing many to steer clear of treatment. But when they are left with no other choice but to seek help from the hospital, they are refused a spot due to a lack of medical supplies and beds. Experts speculate that it might be the tipping point, and that the coronavirus pandemic could “delete Yemen from the maps all over the world.”

Yemen has been  battling years of war, poverty, cholera, and now the pandemic. Countless attempts to mediate the conflict have failed; neither side of the fight is going to give up anytime soon.  On June 12, the United Nations issued a plea for financial aid. They estimate that 18.4 million people in Yemen will starve to death by December, which is three times the death toll of Jews in the Holocaust. The country is on the brink of extinction, and we must do something about it.

So, how can you help?

First, know that the US is complicit in the Yemen war crimes. While donating to organizations can help mitigate the damage, it won’t end the crisis. Inform yourself and others on the problem at hand, sign petitions, and urge your local politicians to side with bills that attempt to end US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Below is a list of resources to help you take action.

Sign these petitions: 

  • “Stop the war and end the famine in Yemen”

  • “Save Yemen from extinction!”

  • “Compassion and action for Yemen crisis refugees”


  • “Stop the flow of weapons to Yemen”

If possible, donate to:

  • International Rescue Committee
  • Islamic Relief
  • Save The Children
  • Project Hope
  • UN refugees

More resources can be found on this info card: