Monday March 4, 2019
The crisis in Yemen – considered by the United Nations to be the world’s most severe humanitarian catastrophe – is disproportionately affecting women and girls. The desperation is so severe that young girls are being married off for food, experts say.
“This is really so shocking,” Brittany Lambert, Oxfam Canada’s women’s rights policy specialist, told CTV News Channel.
The nearly five-year-long conflict in Yemen between a Saudi-led coalition supporting the Yemeni government and Iran-aligned rebels has killed tens of thousands of people and left as many as 12 million more on the brink of famine. Cholera remains a threat, experts say, because of poor water sanitation.
Lambert said that women are suffering the brunt of the crisis.
“Women are the most acutely impacted by food shortages with women often eating last, and least, putting their families ahead of them,” she said. This malnourishment is particularly problematic for the nearly 75,000 pregnant Yemeni women who are at risk of developing serious complications at birth.
Girls, too, are not spared, and are increasingly likely to face gender-based sexual violence, according to Lambert.
“Families are so desperate now, because they simply have no money and no means to feed themselves, that they have resorted to extremely harmful coping mechanisms like marrying off their young daughters to much older men so that they have one less mouth to feed,” Lambert said. Girls as young as three years old are among those being married off, she added.
Last week, Canada pledged $46.7 million in aid to Yemen at a United Nations donor conference in Switzerland, on top of the $130 million that it has provided since 2015. Part of that funding, it said, would be allocated for “the urgent needs of women and girls.”
Lambert applauded Canada’s provision of aid but said that the crisis remains vastly underfunded and that it has little hope of ending without comprehensive negotiations for peace.