“After a year and a half of anti-government demonstrations, factional clashes, and political uncertainty, the economy of consistently impoverished Yemen has been pushed to the brink of collapse, and all but the wealthiest Yemenis are under enormous economic strain,” reports suggest:
According to United Nations estimates, more than 10 million Yemenis don’t have enough to eat, and more than 267,000 children face life threatening levels of malnutrition. But, according to humanitarian workers, there is plenty of food — there’s just no money to buy it.
Yemen remains deeply unsettled in many ways: lingering political uncertainty after a political transition, an uptick in Al Qaeda-linked attacks in major cities, and continuing factional violence in some parts of the country. The humanitarian crisis is just one of many challenges facing the country’s government and domestic and international attention seems focused on Yemen’s political turmoil and local Al Qaeda franchise, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Yemen is facing the prospect of pervasive pediatric malnutrition, CSM’s Adam Barron reports…
…which could doom a generation to impeded intellectual development and stunted growth, leaving the country grappling with the fallout of the hunger epidemic for decades to come.
And while few dismiss the need for urgent international aid, many caution that in a country as impoverished and underdeveloped as Yemen, little will be solved by money alone.
In the absence of effective state institutions, former rebels and opposition activists like Sheik Hamoud Saeed al-Mikhlafi are filling the vacuum, the New York Times reports:
A former top rebel leader in Taiz, Mr. Mikhlafi has taken on a new role as the city’s ultimate arbiter. Part judge, part chieftain, part local political don, he is filling the gap left by the absence of effective judicial institutions in the aftermath of Yemen’s civil conflict last year. Men from all over the surrounding region come to him to resolve disputes and crises, or simply to seek advice.
In Yemen, we’ve seen that allowing the government to retake areas from AQAP can be effective at addressing the terrorist threat; the U.S. should make effective Yemeni governance its next priority. The recently announced influx of aid to Yemen is being directed almost exclusively to Yemen’s security services, which have already proved capable of removing AQAP from its territory. What’s missing is everything else that isn’t security: immediately countering the growing malnutrition there, strengthening and expanding the good governance programs groups like NED run, and establishing a long term commitment to fortifying Yemen’s shaky economy.
As a part of a comprehensive strategy to both physically and politically secure the country, there is a definite role for drones to play: one that is moral, effective, and constrained. Assuming drones are the counterterrorism strategy — an impression one can get reading some of the coverage of the drones program — would be a mistake.
Additional international aid without improvements in governance and anti-corruption efforts is unlikely to ease Yemenis’ hardships, say local observers.
“With foreign aid, there’s always the worry that it will end up in the hands of corrupt officials. And even if it actually goes to those who need it, it’s still not dealing with the root problem,” says one doctor in al-Thawra hospital, “Even more than money, we need education, we need development, we need expertise.”
Hat tip: Abdulwahab Alkebsi and Nathan Grubman at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) whose latest Yemen news digest is posted here. Please Nate Grubman (email@example.com) if you have any questions or would like to be added to the list.
CIPE is one of the four core institutes of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.