Why is silence the response to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis?

With 2020 set to go down in history as a monumentally disastrous year, beginning with fears of World War III which escalated as quickly as the wildfires that ravaged Australia and later the pandemic that became global, most people will be eager to welcome in the new year. What isn’t being addressed, however, is the nation which might not make it that far.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. With 80% of the population in desperate need of humanitarian aid, it is a nation living with the looming fear of extinction. As it suffers through the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in 100 years, coronavirus is just the latest wave of devastation to hit this suffering population, exacerbating the effects of a war which already results in the death of 1 child every 10 minutes. Starvation and cholera are responsible for many of these preventable deaths - the heartbreaking collateral damage for civilians caught in the crossfire of global politics. And yet, headlines remain unrelated to these striking figures. The world responds to its worst humanitarian crisis with silence.

Since the conflict escalated in 2015, the United Kingdom alone has sold an estimated £6.4bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners to fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The UK is just one of many contributing to the destruction of an entire nation, as it is joined by the U.S., Canada, and France (to name a few). So it is unsurprising that our headlines bear no mention of Yemen, since our prominent involvement sees that the Western world is a far cry from innocent. The government’s silence signifies that the exchange of Yemen’s extinction for the rise of our power and wealth is a worthy deal in the face of global politics. And the longer we stay silent, the more we contribute to a system that treats human lives as disposable.

Evidently, the root of the issue is embedded within the larger system of global politics. This means that the complexities are far more entangled than any single charity or person can attempt to solve, hence little progression has been made in stopping this crisis. With airstrikes also destroying the points of entry into Yemen, donated food is often left rotting at ports which civilians cannot access, and aid workers struggle to enter a country of people who need them the most. Consequently, whilst donating to charities is extremely helpful in part, we must go beyond this short-term relief which can’t always be received.

In my opinion, the Black Lives Matter movement provides a glimpse of precisely how we can do that. Despite a global pandemic claiming 2020 as monumentally disastrous, hope has been sparked through more positive worldly phenomena. The BLM movement spoke for the voices which had gone unheard. It proved that when the world comes together to fight an injustice, nations and infrastructures can be held responsible for their actions of oppression and ignorance. Whilst confronting the ugly truth deems uncomfortable for all those involved, it is the first step in righting our wrongs. Acknowledgement is a necessity for change.

We must therefore use our voices as the catalysts for change in Yemen as well; a war-torn, repressed, and starving nation who’s death will be at the hands of politics if we don’t act urgently. Reflected in our silence is compliance and the longer we do nothing, the less innocent we all become. Because with every 10 minutes that goes by, we should be aiding a child in recovery and not in death.

Ways you can help:

  • Spread awareness!! The more people that are educated on this crisis, the more voices that can be raised in order for change to happen. Share information on social media, with family and friends. Have discussions about the crisis so that the suffering of an entire nation doesn’t go unnoticed.

  • Write to your local MP. Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, you don’t need to be! You just need to be someone who cares, who’s willing to spend a few minutes of their day writing to someone with higher political power who could put pressure on the government to consider it’s actions and call for a global ceasefire. Ask your MP what more you can do to raise awareness and spark large-scale political change.

  • Charities still need your donations and petitions still need your signatures, even if you feel as if your individual voice is not important, it is! The more people that sign signatures and donate to charities, the more awareness that is raised, the more pressure placed on governments to address the topic and the more chance Yemenis have at surviving. With coronavirus causing further catastrophe for these civilians, your donations could help provide testing and healthcare.

  • Freerice: a free app with a large impact. The UN World Food Programme has developed an app of quizzes for people to take. With every correct answer, their sponsors send the cash equivalent of 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme who use it to save lives. It’s so simple and hardly time-consuming, yet has the ability to change a person’s life for the better.

Any way that you can spread awareness and speak up for the people who have gone unheard will be the best way to spend just a small part of your day. Because with each passing minute, the people of Yemen become closer to extinction than survival.

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