Yemen’s Grim Future The High Human Cost of War

The war that is getting almost no attention from the world's press is looking increasingly grim for civilians in Yemen.  A recent report by Jonathan D. Moyer at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University Of Denver and commissioned by the United Nations Development Program looks at the human, social and economic impact of the current war in Yemen and explores hypothetical scenarios which assess the consequences of extending the war as far out as 2030.

Let's open by looking at some background.  The conflict in Yemen began in 2014 when Houthi rebels (Shiite branch of Islam) with links to Iran and al-Qaeda took control of Sana'a, the capital city of Yemen, demanding lower fuel prices and a new government that was not Sunni-controlled.  Following the failure of negotiations, the Houthis seized the presidential palace in January 2015, leading then President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government to resign.  In March 2015, a coalition of Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia (a Sunni/Wahhabist nation) launched a campaign of economic sanctions and air strikes against the Houthis.  It is important to keep in mind that the United States has provided both logistical and intelligence support to the anti-Houthi coalition despite the fact that the Houthis do not pose a direct threat to the United States.

Not only has the United States provided logistical and intelligence support, it has also been busy using drones to attack the Houthis; since its first conflict-related strike in 2014, a total of 283 drone strikes have taken place as shown on this table:

Here is a map showing the current on-the-ground situation in Yemen :

Prior to the conflict, Yemen ranked 153rd on the Human Development Index, 138th in extreme poverty, 147th in life expectancy and 172nd in educational attainment.  As though that weren't bad enough, the situation continues to worsen.   According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, an estimated 24 million people (out of a population of 30 million) in Yemen require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance including 14.3 million who are in acute need and 9.6 million who are one step away from famine.  In 2018, food prices rose by 60 percent and fuel prices have now risen by 200 percent compared to pre-war levels.   As well, nearly half of the nation's health facilities are non-functional resulting in 14 million people in acute need of health care.  Two million children are unable to attend school with 36 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys lacking access to education.

Let's look at some key findings by the authors of the study.  The report uses three alternative scenarios; one where the conflict ends in 2019, one where it ends in 2022 and one where it ends in 2030.  In each case, the authors looked at the impact of the conflict on demography, the economy, infrastructure and health.  Let's look at each in turn:

1.) Conflict ends in 2019:

Deaths – 233,000 or 0.8 percent of the 2019 population with 102, 000 combat deaths and 131,000 indirect deaths due to lack of food, medical care etcetera.  There will be an estimated child death every 11 minutes and 54 seconds in 2019 with a total of 140,000 children under the age of five dying.

Economy – $89 billion of economic output lost, USD2000 reduction in GDP per capita at Purchasing Power Parity

Demography – 36 percent of school-aged children with no access to education, 14 percent of children living with malnutrition, 17 percent of the total population in 2019 living with malnutrition, 40 percent of the 2019 population living in extreme poverty.

2.) Conflict ends in 2020:

Deaths – 482,000 or 1.5 percent of the 2022 population with 166, 000 combat deaths and 316,000 indirect deaths due to lack of food, medical care etcetera.  There will be an estimated child death every 7 minutes in 2022 with a total of 331,000 children under the age of five dying.

Economy – $181 billion of economic output lost, USD2600 reduction in GDP per capita at Purchasing Power Parity

Demography – 43 percent of school-aged children with no access to education, 24 percent of children living with malnutrition, 31 percent of the total population in 2022 living with malnutrition, 49.4 percent of the 2022 population living in extreme poverty.

3.) Conflict ends in 2030:

Deaths – 1,800,000 or 4.6 percent of the 2030 population with 296, 000 combat deaths and 1,240,000 indirect deaths due to lack of food, medical care etcetera.  There will be an estimated child death every 21 minutes and 24 seconds in 2030 with a total of 1,500,000 children under the age of five dying.

Economy – $657 billion of economic output lost, USD4600 reduction in GDP per capita at Purchasing Power Parity

Demography – 48 percent of school-aged children with no access to education, 55 percent of children living with malnutrition, 84 percent of the total population in 2030 living with malnutrition, 71 percent of the 2030 population living in extreme poverty.

In case you happen to think that there is no chance that the war in Yemen can continue for another 11 years, keep in mind that the war in Afghanistan started on October 7, 2001, 6,416 days ago.

The scale of the impact of the unreported war in Yemen on its civilian population is stunning, particularly should the conflict continue for an additional three years.  The 63,000 combatants and civilians killed between 2016 and 2018 will pale in comparison to the impact of a war that extends for another decade.  However, with this recent occurrence:

…it's looking increasingly likely that a quick resolution to this conflict and a reprieve for Yemen's beleaguered civilian population is highly unlikely.   

Click HERE to read more from this author.


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