Yemen: the human cost of a forgotten war

Since 2015, Yemen has been a conflict area in which numerous civilians have been killed. The country was already said to be the poorest country in the Arab world before this conflict. Nowadays, 82 % of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The conflict is, however, among the least reported of all wars in the Middle East. Laura Silvia Battaglia, a freelance journalist, Dino Giarrusso from Le Iene on Italia 1, Christine Monaghan from and Michele Trainiti from Doctors without Borders, came to tell us a bit more about this “forgotten” war, its health impacts and Italy’s role in the delivery of weapons. The lecture was organised and sponsored by Doctors without Borders.

The Yemen war is caused by a conflict between Shiite Houthi rebels and the mainly Sunni regime of president Al-Hadi. The latter is supported by an international coalition led by Saudi-Arabia. Apart from that, terrorist organisations such as Al Quada and IS make use of this chaos to increase their share in certain parts of the country.

Health issues

Trainiti tells us a bit more about his experiences when working for Doctors Without Borders in Taiz. The city has been immediately attacked after the start of the war, which resulted in many roads being destroyed, medicines that could not be spread, rescuers that could not get in the right spots, … Trainiti also states that there is a key rule in the war: hospitals should not be attacked. All parties, however, have violated this rule. Almost every day, hospitals are bombed.

Trainiti brings forward the problem that public hospitals are closed and that only private clinics are still open. This means, however, that, only if the patients can pay, they get taken care of. He gives the example of a child who had pieces in his leg after a bombing attack, but who only got a bandage because his parents could not afford treatment. The war is also problematic for people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, who can’t get access to the necessary treatment.

Italy’s involvement

Giarrusso tells us a bit more about Italy’s involvement in the Yemen war. Although a prominent Italian minister claimed “Those bombs are not Italian”, they do seem to be, according to Giarusso’s research. Italy is one of the European bomb and weapon suppliers for the international coalition led by Saudi-Arabia. What is more, Giarusso’s tells us that in doing so, they are breaking an Italian law.

Giarusso contrasts the Italian situation to the one in the United States and Germany. The US has decided that certain weapons will not be sold. Germany has had their MP’s doing public hearings, which shows much more participation in this important public issue.


Lastly, Christine Monaghan from Watchlist, skypes in from New York. She explains to the audience how Watchlist works and what the organisation does for the war in Yemen. Watchlist is an umbrella organisation of NGO’s, humanitarian agencies and humanitarian organisations, that addresses violations of children’s rights. In doing so, it works together with the United Nations. It is also about to release a report on the Yemen War.

By Charlotte Teunis