Congress is getting ready to take action on Yemen. It’s important we support them.(From November 2018)
Two days before Thanksgiving, the international aid agency Save the Children released a statement with a devastating projection: approximately 85,000 children under the age of five, have likely died of extreme hunger or disease since the 2015 start of the war in Yemen.
The total, extrapolated by the agency through data compiled by the UN, was a “conservative estimate” of the mortality rate for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), as experienced by Yemeni children between April 2015 to October 2018. The statement further confirmed an estimated 400,000 children were expected to suffer from SAM in 2018, 15,000 higher than 2017.
In terms of sheer numbers, the total number of children in Yemen expected to experience SAM in 2018 alone, is roughly greater than the entire population of Anaheim, California. And if we were to switch to considering the approximately 14 million Yemeni children and adults who are at risk of famine this year, it would be slightly less than the overall populations of Los Angeles and New York City, combined.
It’s horrifying this isn’t considered front page news in our country.
But like so many things in a media era dominated by Trump’s hyperbolic tweets and pundits yelling at each other on cable news, the report from Save the Children barely made a blip on the national radar.
Only days later, the story has been all but forgotten, occupying space behind the usual stories of Trump’s presidency, outstanding special elections, and in the case of some outlets, detailed analysis of Melania’s Christmas decorations.
(To borrow a phrase from the First Lady herself: I don’t really care about those decorations — do you?)
Of course, there are some logical reasons for whythe Save the Children report and overall coverage of Yemen haven’t been prioritized by the national media. As veteran journalist Nick Kristof pointed out in a September 2018 column for The New York Times– the Saudis have used their blockade to keep reporters out.
There’s also the indisputable fact, it remains a challenge to explain how the proxy wars of Saudi Arabia and Iran have led to this humanitarian crisis in the first place.
As a current graduate student in Global Security Studies at Johns Hopkins, I will readily admit: it can be difficult to explain or even understand, how Yemen and the Houthi rebels fits into the acrimonious relationship between the Saudis and Iranians, and our own country’s practice of realpolitik when it comes to decades of backing the Saudis.
On top of those two reasons, there’s also just blunt reality: it’s hard seeing the pain and suffering of others, particularly children. This is likely why Facebook made the contentious decisionto remove posts sharing pictures of a starving Yemeni girl in October of this year, before backtracking and restoring them. For many, it’s just easier to look away.
But with critical, pending actions to be taken by Congress and the Trump Administration on Yemen in the near future, now is the time we must ensure we don’t look away and join our elected officials in taking action.
In coming days, the United States Senate will be voting on a bipartisan resolutionspearheaded by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), to limit US support for the Yemen conflict.
Despite failing once before, Sanders has stated he believes the timing for the resolution is right- particularly with the CIA’s assessment Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had a direct hand in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The very least we can do, is pick up or phones or send an email, and confirm to our Senators: yes, we are in favor of the resolution. As we do, we must also ask our electeds to push for the Trump Administration to take a firm stance towards ending the fighting, as UN-sponsored peace talks begin next month in Sweden.
While some will likely read this and argue we have plenty stateside to worry about already — with a border crisis, trade wars, plant closures just to name a few, the fact remains — our country is also culpable, for the misery so many of us have trouble looking at in these photos.
Even if the US may not have directly bombed these cities, we have provided arms, intelligence and aerial refueling towards helping Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates take such actions, contributing to what is now being deemed by the International Committee of the Red Cross as the “single largest humanitarian crisis” in the world.
Though President Trump’s own public relationship with the Saudis over the past weeks and months has indicated he likely won’t give the same sort of consideration to the crisis in Yemen, we have a concrete opportunity to ask our elected officials to do differently.
Let’s not squander it.