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At the UN Yemen’s Tragedy in the Spotlight, but Only for a Day

At the Security Council meeting, UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed describes a dire conflict

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the Secretary General's Special Envoy for Yemen, briefs the Security Council. (UN Photo/Manuel Elias)

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen, at the UN Security Council: "We are not close to an agreement. The reluctance of the key parties to embrace concessions needed for peace remains extremely troubling. Yemenis are suffering because of this delay".

While Muslims consciously observed the holy month of Ramadan by abstaining to consume food or drink, the people of Yemen were dying from starvation, disease, and terrorist attacks. 

Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen, Mr. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania, during a UN Security Council meeting dedicated to the crisis in Yemen, said, “I will not hide from this council that we are not close to an agreement. The reluctance of the key parties to embrace concessions needed for peace remains extremely troubling. Yemenis are suffering because of this delay. I have made it clear to the parties in Sana that they must reach a compromise in order to prevent a horrific scenario as seen in Al Hudaydah.”

Primary focus is being placed on sustaining the infrastructure in the country suffering a civil war. The significant escalation of violence on the border of Saudi Arabia and Yemen has led to the deaths of nearly 7,600 and close to 42,000 others injured. The World Health Organization (WHO) has underlined that Yemenis are dying not only from violence, but the lack of salaries and the loss of their livelihoods.

The absence of proper financial stability in Yemen allows for terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda to thrive. Mr. Cheikh is crafting a proposal that will support the Yemeni people to generate revenue and gain salaries instead of furthering the war effort.The UN special envoy would like to use state revenues to support salary payments and to preserve essential government services in all parts of the country.

On the humanitarian front, he said seven million Yemenis are at risk of famine, and half of Yemen’s population lacks access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene services. The latest outbreak of cholera has led to more than 500 deaths with a rapid spread of disease worsened by the failing healthcare system.

However, the UN and partners urgently scaled up assistance, quadrupling the number of diarrhoea treatment centers in the last month and established 136 oral rehydration corners,  noting that synchronised efforts in water, sanitation and health are in place to ensure a comprehensive and holistic response, including a nationwide awareness campaign. Mr. Cheikh stated that the World Bank and UNICEF are also providing social safety nets to keep the already growing number of Yemenis children from starvation and malnourishment.

Emergency Relief Coordinator and UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien, at the same UNSC meeting, said that, “The situation in Yemen is a result of international community’s inaction.” He stressed that “this is not an unforeseen or coincidental result of forces beyond our control” but rather it is a direct consequence of actions of the parties and supporters of the conflict.

Interestingly enough, Yemen has been long riven by endless strife. The rivalry between Sunni & Shia muslims furthers the war in the arabic peninsula and elsewhere.  Saudi Arabia and Iran are in a huge schism, confronting each other also in Syria and Iraq. Hezbollah, the Shia islamist militant group in Lebanon, with the help of Russia and Iran, keep Assad in power. So what we are seeing in Yemen, is a continuation of this shia-sunni conflict. 

While Syria is held at top military and humanitarian priority, the situation in Yemen should be equally as important, but in recent years, it has not been given the national attention it deserves. We wonder why.

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