This Thanksgiving, to raise awareness the current Senate effort to end America's military involvement in Yemen's civil war, we've prepared the following FAQ for people who are unfamiliar with the situation there. We hope this will spark further discussion about Yemen, especially among Americans. We encourage you to share this information with your family and friends this holiday week; we all have a responsibility to end America's destructive foreign interventions.

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What’s going on in Yemen this Thanksgiving week?

I’m glad you asked. A horrific civil war among Yemen’s elites has torn the country apart, causing the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe, the worst cholera outbreak ever recorded, and a famine of potentially historic proportions. The US government is backing neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their intervention against the Houthi rebels. The UAE-led assault on Yemen’s crucial port city of al-Hudaydah is preventing the UN and relief organizations from bringing Yemenis vital food, medicine, and fuel, in blatant violation of international law. Thousands of Yemenis are starving to death already. If the fighting doesn’t stop very soon, we will see innocent people dying from famine and treatable diseases on a scale not seen in decades.

Last Thanksgiving we told you that Saudi Arabia’s blockade of al-Hudaydah was putting millions of lives at risk. Thanks to public pressure from people like you, the US administration convinced Saudi Arabia to loosen the blockade in December. But now things are even worse.

Just how bad is the situation?

  • Currently, the World Food Program estimates that about “60% of the population of Yemen [is in a] food crisis or emergency.” That’s more than 14 million people who could starve to death before our eyes.

  • “More than 80% of Yemen's population lacks food, fuel, drinking water and access to health care services, which makes it particularly vulnerable to diseases that can generally be cured or eradicated elsewhere in the world,” according to ICRC.

  • Fighting in Hudaydah has cut off access to Red Sea Mills, “a grain facility south of the port that holds about 51,000 tonnes of wheat.”

  • More than half a million civilians have been displaced from Hudaydah just since June.

  • The only hospital in Hudaydah that provides emergency care and neonatal care is at risk of being shut down or cut off. According to the UN, this means that women who encounter complications during childbirth are very likely to die. There could be as many as 1,500 such cases in the coming weeks.

Tell me more about what this disaster looks like on the ground.

Mark Lowcock, the UN’s head of emergency relief coordination, told the UN Security Council one month ago: “There is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen: much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives…. At the end of last year, one aid agency estimated that 130 children under 5 were dying every day from extreme hunger and disease. Nearly 50,000 little children during the course of a year…. while millions of people have been surviving on emergency food assistance for years, the help they get is enough merely to survive. Not to thrive. The toll is unbearably high. The immune systems of millions of people on survival support for years on end are now are literally collapsing, making them – especially children and the elderly – more likely to succumb to malnutrition, cholera and other diseases.” Since Mr. Lowcock made those statements, the situation has gotten even worse.

Why on earth is this happening?

The Saudi-led coalition and the Yemeni government want to weaken a rebel group known as the Houthis and, by extension, Iran, who provide the rebels with limited support. Saudi Arabia seems to think they can starve their enemies into submission. Since 2015 they’ve placed severe restrictions on shipping and air traffic; the UAE-led assault on Hudaydah is making things worse. The Houthis also place restrictions on the distribution of humanitarian aid, and fire ballistic missiles across the border into Saudi Arabia to perpetuate the conflict. This war cannot be won militarily, and the only ones losing are innocent Yemenis who want nothing to do with the conflict.

This is all truly terrible. But what does it have to do with me?

Under both Obama and Trump, the US has given Saudi Arabia and its allies a blank check to intervene in Yemen's civil war. Though defense officials won't talk much about this, it's known that the US provides weapons and intelligence assistance for coalition bombing campaigns, which have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. The Trump administration has increased this support and given its tacit approval for the continuing blockade and the Hudaydah offensive, even though the UN and every major humanitarian organization have repeatedly explained the consequences. The US is playing an active role in the starvation of Yemen, and that’s something every American needs to understand.

So what can I do about it?

There are many humanitarian organizations doing great work, and they all deserve support. But the simple fact is that there can be no solution to the humanitarian crisis while this war continues. To end the humanitarian suffering, we have to end the war. And to end the war, we need to end America’s participation in it and put real pressure on Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Next week, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is re-introducing Senate Joint Resolution 54, a bipartisan resolution that will end US support for the Saudi-led coalition’s war crimes in Yemen. We can get this bill to pass, but only with your continued, vocal opposition to US complicity in perpetuating the conflict!

S.J.Res. 54 directs President Trump to withdraw US Armed Forces from hostilities in Yemen. Because Congress has never authorized this support, it can exercise its war powers authorities to halt it, further curtailing the coalition’s ability to bomb school buses, hospitals, and wedding parties. The coalition offensive on Hudaydah, which is directly undermining UN efforts to mediate a ceasefire, make this resolution more pressing than ever.

American bombs are killing Yemeni children. American officials are providing diplomatic cover for a famine in Yemen. This resolution is a vital step toward ending the United States’ enabling of the worst of the war’s violence. We urge you to email your senators by clicking the “start writing” button below and demand that they support the passage of this resolution. Yemeni lives quite literally hang in the balance, and your voice can help ensure that further suffering in Yemen is diminished.

To make sure your senators hear you loud and clear, give their office a phone call as well.

  1. Call the congressional switchboard (202)-224-3121.

  2. Ask to be connected with one of your senators (not sure who that is? Choose your state here).

  3. When you’re connected with your senator’s office, say:
    My name is [your name] and I live in [your town]. I would like Senator __________ to co-sponsor the Sanders resolution to require the President to remove all US personnel from the civil war in Yemen. America’s participation in this war is exacerbating a horrific humanitarian crisis, and it’s time for our government to work for peace.

  4. When you’re done, call the switchboard again and ask for your other senator.

Ok, I’ll do that right now! How else can I help?

This Thanksgiving, as Americans gather together, you can talk about the crisis in Yemen with your family and friends. While we eat, millions of people are being deliberately starved, and most Americans don’t know that our own government is partly responsible. Let’s start with that. Thank you for making a difference!

Learn more about the crisis in Yemen by following the links in this article. To help the Yemen Peace Project continue our efforts to end America’s involvement in this war, please donate here. You can sign up for our weekly news updates and periodic action alerts here.

Banner photo © Ahmad Algohbary