Yemen is on the brink of collapse as of now. What will it take for the international community to step in and save Yemen from ruin?
Yemen is the poorest country in the middle east. In its history, Yemen has never been a stable country and right now it is in the worst shape it can possibly be in. Yemen faces many problems ranging from poverty to terrorism to secession. Apart from these, Yemen also faces severe water shortages with Sana’a designated to be the first capital city in the world to run out of water in the coming years.
So it comes as no surprise that when the Arab Spring hit Tunisia in December 2010, it spilled over into Yemen with protests against the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh. He ruled Yemen for over 30 years and he was known to be extremely corrupt.
After nearly a year long struggle for revolution, Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down from his post as President of Yemen and handed over power to the people. The already impoverished nation of Yemen couldn’t bear the costs that were associated with the Arab Spring and have fallen into a really big quagmire. With the Arab Spring, tourism has ceased to exist and productivity has come to a virtual standstill with people joining the protests.
And if this wasn’t enough, secessionists from Southern Yemen have used the Arab Spring as an opportunity to press for their demand for a separate state. The secessionists are not the only ones taking advantage of the situation in Yemen. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is primarily based in Yemen. The fight against Al Qaeda in Yemen is not new. It has been going on since the beginning of the Global War on Terror. The US was paying Ali Abdullah Saleh a lot of money in order to fight the Al Qaeda. Apart from this, the US trained the Yemeni army to counter such an insurgency. The attacks after the Arab spring have only intensified as it is a time of instability.
Any possible investment in the civilian sector has already dried up and the prospects of getting fresh investment is dying by the day.
Terrorism and instability is only the tip of the problem. What the world is to warned of the approaching humanitarian crisis that is developing not by the day, but by the hour. As of now, 500,000 people have been internally displaced and have left their homes due to recent fighting.
But the bigger concern is the food crisis that has come about. Agricultural output has like all other sectors, taken a big hit. It is estimated that over 6 million people have already fallen into debt. 10 million Yemenis lack proper food and one in three Yemeni children are malnourished. What we are probably looking at is a repeat of the Ethiopian food crisis of 1994. This can be averted only if the international community does something quickly.
Every major aid agency as of now is in Yemen including Oxfam and USAID. The reports that are coming from these agencies are not very comforting. They are working round the clock in order to stabilize the food crisis that is erupting. They claim that what they are doing is simply not enough to keep the situation in check. They warn that the situation is getting worse by the day and more people are going hungry.
Recently, the Friends of Yemen summit was held in the city of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The summit was attended by Arab and western countries. The very fact that this summit was held is a good thing. This is the beginning of an international effort to curb a possible crisis.
One of the most important points that was mentioned in the summits is also the view that many of the aid agencies present in Yemen take. The view is that the best time to help out Yemen is now. The money spent today in trying to prevent a further escalation will be much cheaper than what the world will have to spend if Yemen collapses due to the humanitarian crisis.
Food and medicine is required as of now to mitigate the crisis than mere money. Money is required for a long-term economic surgery of Yemen. All the sectors of the economy need to be restarted and employment must be generated. Countries which are able to afford it should be generous in food aid.
On the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the Yemeni government passed an order which pardoned him of his crimes. This is akin to how Gerard Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for the Watergate Scandal. One of the biggest crimes that Ali Abdullah Saleh is guilty of is widespread corruption which goes into the tune of billions of dollars. He should not be pardoned so easily. A formal investigation to his assets and how much money he has squandered needs to be done just like how a trial was conducted for Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Ali Abdullah Saleh’s other crimes should also be scrutinized, especially the killing of protesters during the Arab Spring. The money should be used to reconstruct Yemen.
International effort must be concentrated on firstly mitigating the food crisis by providing as much as food and medicine as they possibly can. Aid agencies must be empowered as much as possible. Medical teams must be sent. Military aid is also important as Yemen has serious security issues stemming from the secessionists in the south as well as the Al Qaeda. Military training, weapons and intelligence must be shared in order to help the Yemeni army to maintain stability.
And finally, efforts need to be made to kick-start the economy and increase industrialization. Efforts also need to be made in order to mitigate the water crisis of Yemen. A start needs to be made as quickly as possible so that it won’t snowball into a much more graver crisis later on.