If the world can unite so overwhelmingly for 12 boys in Thailand, why can’t it unite for millions of Yemen’s dying children?
Thanks to a major international effort, a Thai youth soccer team has been successfully rescued from the cave where it has been trapped for nearly 15 days. The boys’ plight and the efforts to rescue them have captured the world’s attention for several days, dominating news headlines throughout much of the world. Ultimately, most of the boys were rescued thanks in large part to an international collaboration as divers from several countries united to save them. Indeed, the rescue team was composed of five foreign divers paired with five Thai Navy SEALs as well as a team of 70 support divers, 50 of whom were from other nations.
The successful rescue of the Thai youth team undoubtedly stands as a testament to how international collaboration stemming from international awareness – thanks in part to in-depth news coverage – can overcome impossible odds to save the lives of children and others in need. Yet, while the now-rescued Thai youth recover out of harm’s way, children elsewhere whose lives are also in danger cannot expect similar treatment.
This is particularly true for the tens of thousands of Yemeni children facing death from starvation, a preventable cholera outbreak, and a daily barrage of airstrikes among other threats posed by a Saudi-led war on the country. These children’s lives have become reduced to a grueling fight for survival as the Saudi-led coalition’s fight to dislodge the Houthi Ansar Allah government from power continues to target Yemen’s civilians in the most unconscionable of ways. Indeed, total war has been the coalition’s modus operandi since the conflict began in 2015 and the heavy toll it has exacted is clear.
Three years on, the daily reality for Yemenis is mind-boggling to foreigners given the sheer number of those in peril and the obstacles they face. Currently, in Yemen, over 5,000 children have been killed in the fighting, most of them victims of indiscriminate coalition airstrikes targeting civilian infrastructure such as farms, schools, and hospitals. Recent warnings from the UN have claimed that as many as 18.4 million Yemeni civilians – many of them children – will be at risk of starvation by the end of the year, a figure more than three times higher than the number of Jews killed during the Holocaust in World War II. Hundreds of thousands are severely malnourished and two million more chronically malnourished. Thousands knock at death’s door due to a preventable cholera outbreak, the largest such outbreak in human history.
Much of the suffering is not necessarily caused by the fighting itself but by the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of the country that – with U.S. and U.K. support – has prevented most international aid from reaching those in Yemen who need it most. The blockade, which was “lifted” by the coalition in name only, has worsened as the coalition now fights to wrest the port city of Hodeidah from Houthi control. Somehow, weeks later, the Houthis are still holding on despite no international support and being out-gunned by the wealthy coalition nations. However, the fighting has prevented some 90% of the aid that had flowed to the rest of Houthi-held Yemen from reaching Yemeni shores, exacerbating what was already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Things aren’t much better in areas of Yemen “liberated” by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a reality that betrays the fact that the coalition is not interested in the welfare of the Yemeni people, but instead seeks to claim control of much of Yemen’s territory due to its strategic location. Yemenis who fled to coalition-occupied regions in the country’s south and east often face equally dire conditions as those under threat of blockade, many of them holed up in makeshift camps in the middle of the desert without running water or electricity and with minimal access to food.
However, unlike the lucky boys in Thailand, the Yemeni people and their children are largely invisible to the rest of the world. There is no combined international effort to save them. Instead, efforts are underway to undermine a recent UN report blaming 67% of child casualties in Yemen on the U.S. backed Saudi-led coalition by baselessly asserting the data is “unreliable.”
There is no coverage of the plight of innocents in Yemen on CNN, BBC or Good Morning America. No mainstream news pundits are cheering them on. The media is silent as some of the most powerful countries in the world are not only unwilling to help those facing death in Yemen but are instead complicit in the atrocities.