ADEN, Yemen — He is an 8-year-old boy who is starving and has limbs like sticks, but Yaqoob Walid doesn’t cry or complain. He gazes stolidly ahead, tuning out everything, for in late stages of starvation the human body focuses every calorie simply on keeping the organs functioning.
Yaqoob arrived unconscious at Al Sadaqa Hospital here, weighing just over 30 pounds. He has suffered complications, and doctors say that it is unclear he will survive and that if he does he may suffer permanent brain damage.
Some 85,000 children may have already died here in Yemen, and 12 million more people may be on the brink of starvation, casualties in part of the three-year-old American-backed Saudi war in Yemen. United Nations officials and aid experts warn that this could become the worst famine the world has seen in a generation.
“The risk of a major catastrophe is very high,” Mark Lowcock, the United Nations humanitarian chief, told me. “In the worst case, what we have in Yemen now has the potential to be worse than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives.”
Both the Obama and Trump administrations have supported the Saudi war in Yemen with a military partnership, arms sales, intelligence sharing and until recently air-to-air refueling. The United States is thus complicit in what some human rights experts believe are war crimes.
The bottom line: Our tax dollars are going to starve children.
I fell in love with Yemen’s beauty and friendliness on my first visit, in 2002, but this enchanting country is now in convulsions. When people hear an airplane today in much of Yemen, they flinch and wonder if they are about to be bombed, and I had interviews interrupted by automatic weapons fire overhead.
After witnessing the human toll and interviewing officials on both sides, including the president of the Houthi rebels who control much of Yemen, I find the American and Saudi role in this conflict to be unconscionable. The Houthis are repressive and untrustworthy, but this is not a reason to bomb and starve Yemeni children.
What is most infuriating is that the hunger is caused not by drought or extreme weather, but by cynical and failed policies in Riyadh and Washington. The starvation does not seem to be an accidental byproduct of war, but rather a weapon in it. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, backed by the United States, are trying to inflict pain to gain leverage over and destabilize the Houthi rebels. The reason: The Houthis are allied with Iran.
The governments of Saudi Arabia and the United States don’t want you to see pictures like Yaqoob’s or reflect on the suffering in Yemen. The Saudis impose a partial blockade on Houthi areas, banning commercial flights and barring journalists from special United Nations planes there. I’ve been trying for more than two years to get through the Saudi blockade, and I finally was able to by tagging onto Lowcock’s United Nations delegation.
After a major famine, there is always soul-searching about how the world could have allowed this to happen. What’s needed this time is not soul-searching a few years from now, but action today to end the war and prevent a cataclysm.
You can read the full article on The New York Times here