The air strike by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition on a school bus carrying children in Yemen should horrify us all. As Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF’s regional director in the Middle East, says, “No excuses anymore!! Does the world really need more innocent children’s lives to stop the cruel war on children in Yemen?”
We should also be horrified that the United States military is providing intelligence and aerial refueling to the Saudi coalition in its fight against Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
The United States must be a peacemaker only at it tries to bring an end to Yemen’s civil war, not a combatant. We must encourage a peace process starting with a ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and negotiations to end the war.
Last Thursday a bus carrying Yemeni children from a summer camp was struck during an attack on a market in Sa’ada governorate. Dozens of children were killed by the blast.
This is not the first time Yemeni children and civilians have been attacked in the civil war that started in 2015.
Bombings from the Saudi-led coalition have destroyed residences, schools, and hospitals. But the war itself has killed in silent ways too. People are starving as Yemen has been marched to the brink of famine. Military forces block civilians from receiving humanitarian aid.
Yemen was a poor country even before the civil war started. Many families struggled with hunger, and children suffered high rates of malnutrition. The war has made the food situation much worse in Yemen.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) reports that 17.8 million Yemenis (60 percent of the population) are living in hunger. There are 8.4 million Yemenis suffering with severe hunger, on the brink of starvation.
Children suffer physical and mental damage from malnutrition in Yemen, and some have perished. But many more can yet be saved if agencies like WFP and Save the Children can reach them.
Violence tragically continues as the Saudi-led coalition has stepped up attacks in the governorate of Hodeidah, which includes a critical port for unloading humanitarian supplies.
In June and July, 330,610 people were displaced from Hodeidah because of “bombing, shelling, starvation and a lack of basic services,” according to Save the Children.
Sylvia Ghaly, the Yemen advocacy director for Save the Children, pleads: “There is no military solution to this conflict. Only a political solution can bring the war to an end and reinstate peace in Yemen. We urge all parties to agree to an immediate cessation of hostilities, return to the negotiation table to commit to a ceasefire, and cooperate with the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths. Spare the Yemeni people more death and misery.”
The international community must get on with the work of rebuilding Yemen and restoring the basics of life which have been ripped away by war. The United States has to be the leader in this peace effort. That includes supporting humanitarian aid including food for the millions of starving people in Yemen. The U.S. Food for Peace program is critical for saving Yemenis from hunger.
Our strength as a nation is derived from our moral and humanitarian standing. These principles must guide us in our foreign policy. They have done so many times, including 70 years ago with the Marshall Plan that rebuilt war-torn Europe.
This means we should not be using our military power to prolong civil wars and human suffering. We must bring the warring sides in Yemen’s conflict to the peace table.
The United States should exert its leadership now in gaining a ceasefire, free flow of humanitarian aid, and a peace treaty that can save Yemen from war and famine.