11.12.2019 Author: Catherine Shakdam

The Cost of Feeding Yemen as War Rages On


Yemen’s war has proven to be far more than just another failed attempt at enforcing a certain socio-political reality. As it were, the cost of keeping Yemen afloat, and by that I mean the funds which have been allocated to alleviate such plagues as famine, cholera, and overall misery is fast becoming an unsustainable burden on the international community.

The UNHCR categorised Yemen’s humanitarian as the worst in the world. “Nearly four years of conflict has forced more than 4.3 million people to leave their homes, and an estimated 80 percent of the population – 24 million people – are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.”

Yemen is in such a dilapidated state in fact that it would currently take the war-torn nation an estimated 20 years to return to its pre-war level of food security at a juncture in time when the United Nations intends to eradicate world hunger within the decade. Yemen is by all accounts lagging dramatically … courtesy of a long drawn-out war no one party feels inclined to end.

And though the burden of peace should of course fall on those who started it all, one cannot help but wonder just how long will Yemen be made to endure the intolerable, and maybe more to the point, what will be left of the nation once the cannons finally quiet down. Victory may not need be military, but rather exists in the formulation of a political solution that would focus on conflict resolution and economic cooperation.

What victory is there to claim if only ghosts are left? Years of war have already exploded the nation’ social fabric, laying bare old regional fault-lines and claims of independence. Another few years may completely erase Yemen’s sense of national cohesion, putting a serious question mark over the fate of the Arabian Peninsula.

Should Yemen break under the weight of war, it will not simply do so along the old north-south divide. It is more likely we will witness a fragmentation of the Republic into several regional clusters, each carrying their own social and political idiosyncrasy, each loyal to particular actors within the immediate region, thus amplifying the risk of violence, unrest, and overall chaos.

Stephen Day puts it best in his book, The Return of Regionalism, when he sheds light on Yemen’s inner troubles and the many divisions, which for decades have plagued the country.

Let’s remember that in times of extreme stress communities tend to withdraw behind the walls of social conformity to look after their own, in opposition of all others if need be.

With millions of people facing death by hunger and/or diseases, Yemen is just about to crack …

Earlier this month, Amnesty International warned that the international community simply could not keep up with the growing needs of a population under siege.

“Yemen’s war has been characterized by unlawful bombings, displacement and a dearth of basic services, leaving many struggling to survive. The humanitarian response is overstretched” said Rawya Rageh, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.

Nothing new there … Here is where the reality of Yemen’s beant humanitarian blackhole might actually hit home for many. In a report published this Monday (Dec. 9, 2019) the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warned in no uncertain terms that “a failure to capture the present rare chance for peace in Yemen may potentially cost the international community $29bn (£22bn) in further humanitarian aid if the current civil war continues for another five years.”

Now if we keep in mind that both Saudi Arabia and the Emirates have fronted most of the humanitarian cost, to pursue further violence in Yemen would equate to exposing their economies and their state budgets for no tangible returns. To be both the pyromaniac and the firefighter is proven to be costly, and from a purely strategic standpoint unsustainable … one may even posit the very definition of political insanity. To pursue the same course of actions over and over while expecting a different outcome as Sigmund Freud so eloquently advised is the definition of insanity.

In the case of Yemen, each new blow is pushing the nation further down a dangerous line … so much so that soon enough we could find ourselves with greater issues than that of presidential legitimacy or political inclinations. In the south, al Qaeda already reclaimed sovereignty over large swathes of land, buying off loyalties by offering food and medicine.

To lose Yemen to instability and fragmentation would quite simply hand over Southern Arabia to radicalism.

David Miliband, president of the IRC and former foreign secretary, said:

“Today’s grim predictions are an insight into the colossal cost of the age of impunity: where wars are fought with a complete disregard for civilian life and neglected by diplomats charged with ending the violence and holding perpetrators of international law to account.What’s more, the war in Yemen has been prolonged by active military support and diplomatic cover from the US, UK, and other western powers.”


“The good news is that the huge efforts by humanitarian agencies, donor governments and aid workers have helped reduce slightly the appalling levels of child malnutrition in Yemen. The bad news is that, at this rate, it will take a further 20 years just to reach prewar levels of child hunger. That’s twice the agreed timetable for ending malnutrition around the world.”

Time is not just running out on Yemen, the clock already struck out midnight!

Catherine Shakdam is a research fellow at the Al Bayan Centre for Planning & Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements. She is the author of A Tale of Grand Resistance: Yemen, the Wahhabi and the House of Saud. She writes exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.