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Horror in Yemen

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YEMEN’S CONFLICT: Special correspondent for BBC News, Nawal al-Maghafi, speaks at Indiana Wesleyan University about the on-going humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Yemen’s crisis is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.
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MAP OF YEMEN: Head of Humanitarian Campaigns of Oxfam International, Awssan Kamal, shows a map of the country of Yemen.
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Shelter: Children sit in front of moldy bread in their shelter, in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA U.N. warned in a report March 12, 2019, that thousands of Yemeni civilians caught in fierce clashes between warring factions are trapped in the embattled northern district of Hajjah. The number of displaced in the district has doubled over the past six months, the humanitarian agency said.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicl-tribune.com

Indiana Wesleyan University hosted a seminar on Tuesday night to shed light on the war in Yemen, which has created an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe.

During the event, titled “Hope for Yemen,” three experts spoke about the chronic malnutrition problems ravaging the war-torn country and the outbreak of cholera, which has touched every corner of the country.

According to Awssan Kamal, head of humanitarian campaigns for Oxfam International, the conflict escalated in 2015 when a Saudi Arabian coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, began a bombing campaign across Yemen.

The campaign began as an attempt to quash an uprising by Houthi rebels, who took over Yemen and forced the removal of the country’s internationally recognized president.

The war, now four years on, has resulted in the “loss of a generation,” according to Kamal.

Oxfam International, a confederation of charitable organizations aimed at reducing global poverty, has been supporting the Yemeni people who are most impacted by the war.

Kamal shared the story of one Yemeni family who lived in a patched together tent. In front of their tent is a satellite dish – a painful sign of the family’s efforts to lead a normal life.

“When they ran away they literally just took the clothes on their backs,” Kamal said. “So the children couldn’t go to school, they couldn’t have a life (and) they couldn’t register with international NGOs (Non-governmental organizations) to get any aid available in the area.”

Oxfam created a water network to provide the family a system for drinking clean water during a time when cholera was breaking out.

According to Oxfam, cholera has spread to nearly every aspect of the country. It’s estimated that nearly 1.3 million people in Yemen are suffering from cholera or acute water diarrhea.

Any progress achieved in efforts to beat cholera are being undermined by the war, which has destroyed health, water and sanitation systems. The cholera outbreak is the largest outbreak of the disease ever recorded, according to Oxfam.

In addition to cholera, nearly half of all children between six months and five years old are chronically malnourished.

A combination of on-going conflict and import restrictions has resulted in three quarters of Yemen’s population of 29 million people who require “urgent, life-saving assistance,” Oxfam said.

“This is what the crises is all about, the fact that people aren’t able to purchase their food because they’ve lost their main income,” Kamal added. “They’ve lost everything that’s good...”

A special correspondent for BBC News, Nawal al-Maghafi, also spoke at the event.

Al-Maghafi, who is Yemeni, was in London when the bombing campaign began.

She was awoken at 5 a.m. by her husband to the news that Yemen was being bombed. She had just returned from visiting her home country. The news shocked her.

“I could not believe the news,” al-Maghafi said. “Tensions were high, but never in a million years did any of (us) see this war coming.”

The first thing she did was call home to her family who were still in Yemen.

“I remember when my dad answered the phone,” she said. “I could hear the bombing in the background. I could hear the thuds. He said ‘We have no clue what’s going on,’”

The electricity was cut out, so her family couldn’t even turn on the television.

“I had to break the news to my family in Yemen that a coalition of 10 countries, led by the Saudis, was bombing Yemen,” she said.

Al-Maghafi thought the bombing campaign would be a quick operation because the Saudi coalition named it “Operation Decisive Storm.”

“The plan was a quick operation to pull out the Houthis who had taken over the capital ... and to reinstate the president,” she said. “Four years on and that hasn’t happened.

“No child would ever dare play in the streets anymore,” she added.

According to Scott Paul, humanitarian policy leader of Oxfam America, the former Yemeni government went to Saudi Arabia after being pushed out and asked for help.

“A Saudi and Emirati led coalition, supported by the United States, began the bombing campaign to reinstall that government,” Paul said. “Militarily we’ve more or less been in a similar place the last four years ... What has changed is the effects of that conflict on the people in Yemen.”

According to Kamal, Yemen can’t wait any longer for relief from the war. Kamal encourages people to tweet #YemenCan’tWait to spread awareness about the humanitarian crises.

“(The) Yemeni’s cannot wait for us to make the change (to) policies that are allowing this war to continue,” he added.

Oxfam is calling on the U.S. to end defense assistance and the transfers of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Oxfam is also asking the United States to boost the United State’s diplomatic capacity for Yemen by increasing the number and seniority of its diplomats who are focused on resolving the conflict.

The speakers asked IWU attendees to tell Senators Todd Young and Mike Braun that the attendees support the “Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2019.” The bill is sponsored by Young and creates a “realistic strategy to end the war in Yemen and alleviate the humanitarian crises,” according to Oxfam.