Sickness and Health in Yemen during a time of War / by Edna Bonhomme

Death lurks in Yemen. Not just in the unintended consequences of war led by the Saudi coalition against the Houthis, but it crops up in the built environment--one saturated with political insecurity, military bombing, and social anguish. The Arab uprisings of 2010-2011 were a brief period of hope that have mutated into horror for millions of people in Yemen. 'Amaliyyat 'Āṣifat al-Ḥazm, otherwise known as Operation Decisive Storm, is a military operation that was initiated by Saudi Arabia in 2015 against Houthi militias. While Saudi Arabia continues to be the main agent leading the attack, other Arab countries such as Egypt, Morocco, and United Arab Emirates have provided material supports for the military intervention. Support extends even further with the United States government providing logistical and military support.

The airstrikes have been deleterious for everyday life. In early August 2018, an airstrike killed over 40 people believed to be school children; another 60 are being treated for injuries. This confrontation with mass death has been frequent and ghastly as cited by the United Nations and various Human Rights groups. To date, the United Nations estimates the death toll is 16,000 with an additional 22 million people in Yemen needing aid. These figures are not merely numbers but they bear a moral obligation to the people in Yemen--those who continue to have their humanity disregarded by war.

People are on the fringe of death not only because of the Saudi-led 'Amaliyyat 'Āṣifat al-Ḥazm, but because of a cholera epidemic that is perpetuated by destruction. The disease emerges from the bacteria, Vibrio cholerae, and can easily be treated with clean water and antibiotics. Yet, the constant military attacks by Saudi Arabia leaves little room for a thorough public health solution. As the cholera epidemic continues to proliferate in Yemen, the destruction to life is further amplified with the assault on schools, hospitals and public health infrastructure. If we value those who are currently living and want to honor those who have perished from this casaulty, it means calling for an end to this Saudi-led military campaign.