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Podcast: Breaking down the complex crisis in Yemen

Boys stand around the wreckage of a vehicle at the site of a car bomb attack next to a Shiite mosque in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

While summer has been restful (and eventful, world tragedy-wise), our podcasts had to return to reality sometime, so here we are. For our first podcast of the fall, our U.K. correspondent Charlie Ensor talked to Oxfam America‘s humanitarian policy adviser Scott Paul on the current crisis in Yemen, which is now in its second year.

Already the poorest country in the Arabian peninsula, Yemen’s recent history has been hit by various crises from insurgencies to environmental disasters, which leads to what Paul describes as “endemic poverty” for many Yemenis. And it doesn’t look like things might get better any time soon if all the warring factions maintain the status quo. Paul takes us through the extent of the humanitarian disaster and the various factors that make it hard for the issue to get on the news.


Photo courtesy of Oxfam America

But more importantly, Paul also talks about how people – especially citizens of powerful countries – can help. Think of it as a call against arms. Currently, world powers like the U.S. and the U.K. play an active role in providing a Saudi-led coalition with arms to restore the former Yemeni government (and perhaps enabling the coalition to conduct bombing campaigns with what some humanitarian groups have described as a “pattern of disregard for civilian life“). Yet at the same time, the U.S. and the U.K. are also trying to be peace brokers. Maybe there’s a saying about not being able to have a cake and eat it, too, that can be used here.

But before the fascinating chat, our publisher/chief editor/janitor Tom Paulson and I talked about recent headlines lately, such as the fact that the world is great and everything is fine. Just kidding. It’s not. For one thing, there has recently been a worrying trend of military forces using illegitimate tactics that results in mass civilian casualty, such as cluster munition use in Syria and our topic du jour, Yemen.

In a different part of the world, there’s another worrying trend: Indigenous communities in the Americas have had their work cut out for them recently in trying to defend their natural resources against big extractive energy industries. Our own Lisa Nikolau covered a recent effort by Argentina’s indigenous communities to stop fracking, which the groups said have contaminated their water supplies. And of course, we can’t ignore the standoff currently underway between the Standing Rock branch of the Sioux tribe and the North Dakota Access Pipeline.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t good news though. Sri Lanka finally eradicated malaria after decades of public health efforts on all fronts, joining Maldives as the only countries in the World Health Organization’s Southeast Asia region that have fully wiped off malaria. Now that’s a major accomplishment worth celebrating.

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About Author

Imana Gunawan

Imana Gunawan is Humanosphere's social media manager and podcast producer. A University of Washington graduate in journalism and dance, Imana's interests include underrepresented communities, the intersection between politics and culture, global-local issues and the arts. She can be reached at @imanafg on Twitter or