In 2015, the UNHCR classified over 2,800,000 Yemenis as asylum seekers, refugees, or other vulnerable ‘people of concern,’ and 500,000 children could be at risk of starvation as a result of the Saudi-led conflict.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. agency tasked with tracking and protecting displaced people reports that the war in Yemen has created 179,654 refugees since March 2015.
According to the July 31 report from the U.N. Refugee Agency, or UNHCR, the refugees fled their homes in Yemen to take shelter in surrounding countries in the Middle East and North Africa, with 51,000 living in camps in Oman alone. A further 39,880 live in Saudi Arabia, and 36,162 more live in Djibouti, rounding out the three countries with the most Yemeni refugees.
The report was released a little more than a week before the Saudi-led coalition announced it would resume its devastating bombing campaign in Yemen after a U.N.-brokered peace deal broke down on Aug. 1. The United States also recently announced it would sell Saudi Arabia, a key ally in the Middle East, an additional $1 billion in military equipment.
“The US State Department has approved the potential sale of more than 130 Abrams battle tanks, 20 armoured recovery vehicles and other equipment, worth about $1.15bn, to Saudi Arabia, defence chiefs said on Tuesday,” Middle East Eye reported on Wednesday. “The approval notice came on the same day a Saudi-led coalition launched its first air raids in three months in Yemen, where it is fighting Houthi rebel forces in support of the exiled government of President Abd Rabbuh Hadi.”
While the Saudi-led coalition claims to be fighting a coup led by the Houthis, the real cause of the conflict is likely an attempt to gain control of Yemen itself, which, while not rich in oil, represents a key route for global pipelines.
Even the figures from the UNHCR’s latest report fail to provide a complete picture of the suffering in Yemen. The agency recorded a total of 2,809,088 “people of concern” in 2015, including 267,173 refugees, 9,866 asylum seekers, and 2,532,032 internally displaced persons, marking an increase of 309 percent from the previous year. The Saudi coalition is known to directly target schools, hospitals, civilian-owned businesses and homes, and other humanitarian infrastructure.
Some estimates put the death toll in Yemen at almost 10,000, but that number could actually be much higher, in part due to the massive risk of starvation caused by the conflict. The World Food Programme estimates about 14.4 million Yemeni are “food insecure.” According to an Aug. 3 report from Al-Jazeera, that figure includes 500,000 children, many of whom are close to death.
Mohammed al-Asaadi, a spokesman for the U.N. children’s agency in Yemen, told Al-Jazeera, “At least 370,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.”
“We’re talking about a 50 percent increase compared to the number we had earlier this year,” he added.
Taqwa Mohammad, a resident of Hodeidah, a Houthi-occupied city in west Yemen, told Al-Jazeera, “I can’t afford milk or medicine for the children. If one of them gets sick, I can’t take him to the doctor, I borrow fever and cough medicines from the neighbors.”
Between worsening wars for energy and the growing impact of climate change, the world is facing an unprecedented refugee crisis. An August Fact Sheet from the UNHCR estimates that 1 in every 113 people on Earth is affected by forced displacement — the worst ever recorded.