Why Yemen is the World’s Worst Crisis

Our world is not lacking in crises to observe. Humanitarian and natural disasters, rumors of war, and general political upheaval have become de rigueur. As a genocide scholar I have been paying particular attention to the Rohingya crisis. As the co-founder of Lynx Global Intelligence, I closely watch developments in Libya, Iraq and Southeast Asia. The attention paid to these issues by the mass media is modest, but present. Unfortunately for the victims of these crises, celebrity sex-scandals and social media dominate the news.

One crisis, however, is not getting any attention, and that makes it the worst crisis in the world. Humanitarian crises, by definition, require media attention that relay images that, in turn, motivate the giving public to act. In the case of the crisis in Yemen, starvation and displacement have come about due to the pursuit of Iranian-backed Houthi rebels by a Saudi-led coalition.

Images and reports of starvation and human suffering are devastating to process. Food aid lies in wait off the coast, and the international aid apparatus has been mobilized, but coalition forces maintain a blockade. A brief 60-Minutes report shows the result of the blockade on aid that violates international humanitarian law and the laws of war.

The Yemen crisis represents something more than a regional failure to uphold humanitarian standards during a conflict. The Saudi defense forces feel emboldened by a new sense that, internationally, sovereignty is now more important that submission to international law. The less pressure applied by the US and Europe, the less the Saudis will feel it necessary to wrap the conflict up in the appropriate fashion and return health and dignity to the lives of those suffering in Yemen. This dynamic will continue to create complex emergencies that will only get worse in the absence of intervention by the international community.