The Yemen Crisis

The economic and political scenario in Yemen has turned ominous as the country dwells deeper into war due to the unstable political regime. And yet, it seems as if the world has forgotten the dire situation of Yemen and the proxy wars that threaten the nation’s existence. It started as a civil war between the Houthis and the followers of President Hadi but has since then attracted several other countries and rebel groups like Iran, Saudi Arabia, USA, and ISIS, AQAP. This article explains how the civil war started, what caused it, and how Yemen is dealing with it today. The global pandemic that has plagued the world has turned Yemen into a country of various emergencies. There are no winners in this war but the losers are the civilians who are fighting to survive, with however much uncertainty. This article also explores the possibilities of how to overcome this humanitarian crisis and prevent it from destroying the country fully. 


In the spring of 2011, began a series of pro-democracy uprisings in several Arab and Muslim countries which resulted in a change of regimen in these countries. Though the aim was to overthrow the oppressive leaders of these Arab nations and increase the standard of living, the resultant civil wars and turmoil have deemed it a failure over time. The Yemen Crisis is a result of this change in regime and the subsequent military intervention in Yemen. Declared as one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, the prolonged conflict in the state has led to more than 3.6 million people displaced and approximately 17 million in desperate need of food. [1]

What caused the Yemeni Revolution?

The Yemeni Revolution which was a part of the Arab Spring uprisings, began in 2011-12 when Yemeni people took to the streets in various cities and demanded the then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. Under pressure from the revolting people, military, United States, and Saudi Arabia, he had no choice but to sign an agreement handing over his position to the Vice President Abdrabbuh Hadi. In 2012, as the only running candidate for the Yemeni general election, Hadi was elected as the new president of the country. However, the new government could not contain the rising insurgency of the Houthis and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and in 2015, President Hadi and Prime Minister Khalid Bahah were forced out of office by the Houthis.

The Houthis are a group of non-state actors (NSAs), specifically a Zaidi Shia rebel group established in 1990, to gain political power in the country and eradicate the Saudi-backed Salafi influence in the region.[2]  To understand the stance of the Houthis in Yemen, state actors have the right to use force in the military conflict in Yemen and non-state actors seem to have no legal ground within international law. After the Arab Spring hit Yemen in 2011, the Houthi rebellion gained a stronghold and initiated months-long protests against the government in the name of fighting corruption and the U.S.-backed dictator, in the end forcing the president out of office.[3]

Widespread protests ensued from 2012 to 2014 and within a few months the Houthis managed to gain control of the capital city of Sana’a and they dissolved the parliament and forced Hadi to resign. But Hadi fled to Aden, where he announced he remained the rightful president of Yemen, proclaimed the provisional capital of the region, and called on local government officials and military representatives to rally to him. Especially when the country was facing massive demonstrations on both sides fled to Saudi Arabia, President Hadi welcomed neighboring countries to interfere with the use of force. Saudi Arabia then started airstrikes on Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition started the use of force in Yemen at President Hadi’s invitation to oust the country’s Houthi insurgency and take control of President Hadi’s legitimate government. Where Saudis back Hadi and want him to legitimately take back the power, Iran is suspected to be supporting the Houthis. There is no evidence of Iran’s support for the Houthis but that has not stopped much tension between the countries and is accused by some as the reason for prolonging the civil war.

Yemen in the Times of COVID-19

In today’s time when a global pandemic has seized the entire world, Yemen is particularly affected because its healthcare system has collapsed. The doctors of the country lack sufficient equipment and tracking of cases in nearly impossible. Many health workers are receiving no salaries or incentives, and 10.2 million children don’t have access to basic healthcare. [4]Due to the lack of food storage and no stability in income sources, people are forced to work no matter how bad the situation gets. Yemen has about 3500 medical facilities but 5 years of war have destroyed most of them. Clinics are reported to be crowded, and basic medicines and equipment are lacking – in a country of 27.5 million people, there are only a few hundred ventilator machines, which are used to help patients breathe in cases where coronavirus leads to lung failure.[5] Moreover, in the whole country, there are only about 40 corona rehabilitation centers which are not enough for the growing number of cases that plague the nation.

Many medics themselves have contracted the disease and their immunity, if it can, is the only thing saving them from the virus.  The UN reports that the rate of COVID-19 fatalities is as high as 30 percent — well above everywhere else on the planet. To put this in context, the global fatality rate is seven percent, and it hovers below three percent in much more industrialized nations. In addition to all else Yemen is facing, one can now add to the list, COVID-19 having the highest un-official death rate[6]

The Current Position of Yemen

Since 2015, Yemen has been in a state of civil war where several nations including the United States and United Nations refuse to acknowledge the Houthi takeover as legitimate, and questions are raised over reinstating Hadi as the President. The people of Yemen are quite severely affected as the Houthis continue to reply to protests with torture and murder, using lethal weapons to subdue any hint of opposition and even use children as child soldiers to fight their wars. Former President Saleh was killed by the Houthis when they came into power and created a state drowning in humanitarian crisis, murdering its citizens: if not by weapon, then starvation and lack of basic facilities.

In addition to this, al-Qaeda militants in the Arabian Peninsula ( AQAP) and the local branch of the rival Islamic State group (IS) took advantage of the confusion by capturing land in the South and carrying out deadly attacks, especially in Aden.[7] Although the Hadi administration has been recognized by the UN as the legitimate government since Resolution 2216 (2015) recognized President Hadi as the lawful acting President of the Yemeni government,[8] it does not reflect in the current state of things in Yemen. 

Different countries have different stances concerning the conditions prevalent in Yemen. Most of the Arab Nations and some of the countries in the west have supported the coalition of Hadi and Saudi Arabia in Yemen and the actions taken by them are most welcome. The League of Arab States that they “fully welcome[d] and support[ed] the military operations in defense [sic] of legitimate authority in Yemen. . . by the coalition composed of the States members of the Gulf Cooperation Council and several Arab States” and reiterated the operation to be “grounded in the Arab Treaty of Joint Défense and Article 51 of the UN Charter.”[9]

Other countries remain neutral with former UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon stating that “negotiations remain the only option for ultimately resolving the Yemini crisis.” This may be the ultimate truth that is being ignored as of now. While Saudi Arabia is economically capable of financing for some time the financial costs of military intervention, the airstrikes are not practically feasible in the long run, as they will never fulfill their strategic aims. The parties involved could eventually begin negotiations with the UN-mediated Houthi forces or other stakeholders.


Instead of reinstating Hadi as the President or rather after reinstating Hadi as the President, efforts should be made for free and fair elections in the state. If people have a choice in democratically electing their leader, there might be a chance of changing the malnourished corrupted land into a flourishing one. With so many rival forces competing for power in the country, one civil war could easily lead to another. The control of AQAP and ISIS in the state must be controlled and their territory for the time being if cannot be rooted must be defined. The international community should help Yemen by providing resources for the people as well as nudging for peace talks so that the people of Yemen can finally see a peaceful nation come out of the current unfortunate chaos of a regime.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is a humanitarian crisis?

A humanitarian crisis can be defined as “an event or series of events that represents a critical threat to the health, safety, security, or well being of a community or other large group of people, usually over a wide area.”

  • When did the Arab Spring start and end?

Arab spring started on 18 December 2010 and ended in December 2012.

  • What is the Yemeni Civil War about?

The two key players in the Yemeni war are the Shiite rebel group, the Houthis, and forces trying to reinstate President Hadi to power.

  • How is the United States involved in all this?

United States has its stakes in the Yemeni war because of the presence of AQAP in Yemen. This terrorist group has threatened and planned terrorist attacks on the US before and has carried out many terrorist attacks in Yemen.   


  • [1]          The facts: What you need to know about the crisis in Yemen, MERCY CORPS, (July 17, 2020),
  • [2]          Who are the Houthis? TRT WORLD, (Dec.18, 2018),
  • [3]          Who are the Houthis? TRT WORLD, (Dec.18, 2018),
  • [4]          Yemen Crisis, UNICEF,
  • [5]          Coronavirus: Five reasons it is so bad in Yemen, BBC NEWS, (June 20, 2020),
  • [6]          Auke Lootsma, COVID-19 ravages an already desperate Yemen, UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME, (Aug. 19, 2020),
  • [7]          Yemen Crisis: Why Is There A War, BBC NEWS, (June 19, 2020),
  • [8]          Security Council Demands End To Yemen Violence, Adopting Resolution 2216 (2015), With Russian Federation Abstaining, UNITED NATIONS, (April 14, 2015),
  • [9]          Note verbale dated Apr. 2, 2015 from the Permanent Observer of the League of Arab States to the United Nations addressed to the President of the Security Council, United Nations Security Council, (Apr. 15,2015).

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