Thursday, July 18, 2019 | ePaper

OPINION

Oh My God

What the Hell Is Going On In Yemen!

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Saleem Samad :
Yemen, once proud heritage of Arab civilisation, is often portrayed as a country on the brink of catastrophe.
Yemen's war began in 2015, after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took over much of the country's north. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - UAE are leading a coalition to fight the rebels, but UAE forces have overtaken wide swaths of territory, towns and cities in the South. The United States is backing the coalition with billions of dollars in arms, and partners with the Emiratis in anti-terrorism campaigns.
Inside Yemen's dirty war, a team of America largest news service Associated Press - AP journalists spent months investigating Yemen's civil war, uncovering corruption, torture and other abuses. The AP coverage has earned many of journalism's top honors, including the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and the McGill and Batten medals for courage in reporting.
The United States has waged a drone war in Yemen for more than 16 years, trying to suppress dreaded al-Qaida's terror campaign there.
There is no comprehensive count of civilian deaths because of the difficulty of confirming identities and allegiances of those killed.
Nearly 10,000 civilians, mostly children and combatants have been killed in Yemen's civil war, and several thousands more may have died of starvation caused by the prolong conflict.
The Pentagon does not release its assessment of the death toll, but an independent database considered one of the most credible in tracking violence in Yemen counted 88 people - militants and non-militants - killed by drones this year.
The AP count gives a glimpse, even if incomplete; into how often civilians are mistakenly hit by drone strikes, at a time when the Trump Administration has dramatically ramped up the use of armed drones.
The drone toll goes almost unnoticed in the region's conflicts. Immensely greater destruction has been wreaked by US allies in the Saudi-led coalition's air campaign against Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels.
The Houthis - officially known as Ansar Allah (the Supporters of God) - belong to the Zaidi sect, a branch of Shia Islam, and had long been marginalized. Although the Houthis managed to bring down the government, they have so far failed to assert control over the whole country and are probably incapable of doing so.
Meanwhile on the ground the dirty war had a cost on tens of thousands of civilians who were victims of the civil war of the coalition forces campaign against the Houthi rebels who still occupy large swatch of Yemen.
Doctors estimate that 40 per cent of the children in the town suffer from malnutrition. Barefoot kids fill the center's corridors, many visibly emaciated, some with malaria or cholera.
Aid agencies warn that parts of Yemen could soon start to see widespread death from famine. More and more people are reliant on aid that is already failing to reach people.
In a remote pocket of northern Yemen, many families with starving children have nothing to eat but the leaves of a local vine, boiled into a sour, acidic green paste. International Aid Agencies have been caught off guard by the extent of the suffering there as parents and children waste away.
It is unknown how many have died, since authorities are not able to track cases. Save the Children late last year estimated that 50,000 children may have died in 2017 of extreme hunger or disease, given that up to 30 percent of children with untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition die.

(Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow (USA), recipient of Hellman-Hammett Award and also Bangladesh correspondent of Paris based international media rights organization, Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Email: saleemsamad@hotmail.com)

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