Amal Hussain. You might not know her name, but she is the young Yemeni girl that brought the world's attention towards the war that Saudi Arabia is waging in Yemen. And how the US is helping the Saudis do so.
Unfortunately, 1.8 million other malnourished Yemeni children face a similar fate because of the man-made famine as a result of this war. Not to mention the largest modern cholera epidemic, with over a million cases. The U.N. estimates that 14 million people, half of Yemen's population, will need humanitarian aid.
This all stems from, first, Saudi airstrikes, which have pushed people miles away from their homes, and many more miles away from the limited number of hospitals in the country. Amal's family, for example, was from Saada, but they were forced to live in the mountains in 2015 towards the beginning of the war. Their city is also the home of Houthi rebels that are controlling northern Yemen. As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, the rebels are a proxy, or stand-in group, for their enemy Iran.
Secondly, the blockade of air, sea, and land access to Yemen, preventing humanitarian aid from entering the country. And even with the limited number of humanitarian organizations that had set up hospitals, such as Doctors Without Borders, they are way out of reach. Amal's family would've had to travel 15 miles, and in their poverty-stricken, malnourished, and ill state, that was impossible.
So where does the US come into the picture? Arms deals and oil. Washington supports its ally Saudi Arabia through billions of dollars in arms sales, even refueling their jets mid-air and sharing military intelligence. And as for oil, the US needs a stable government in Yemen in order to protect their commercial shipments of 3 to 4 million barrels of oil that travel through a path that borders the country.
Although both the US and the UK, the Saudis' largest arm-suppliers called upon Saudi Arabic for a cease-fire recently, one may ask if this is too little too late. Where was the ceasefire when millions were displaced, suffering from famine, and dying due to cholera?
It is during wars like this, where there are clear conflicts of interest, that we as Americans need to evaluate our lawmakers and politicians. During March of 2018, the Senate rejected a bipartisan bill to halt American military support for the bombing campaign in Yemen. Moreover, the State Department released a statement emphasizing that the US would, through the $670 million arms deal with Saudi Arabia, support our own "foreign policy and national security objectives by helping to improve the security of a friendly country which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic growth in the Middle East".
It should be a problem when the importance of our relationship with a nation depends more on our financial gain than on the values and realistic actions of a nation. Saudi Arabia has been guilty of many violations of our values, from the killing of journalist (and American resident) Jamal Khashoggi to waging a war with the poorest country in the Middle East at the expense of millions of lives.
For Amal, this decision was far too late. Her mother, Mariam Ali, said, "My heart is broken... Amal was always smiling. Now I'm worried for my other children."
This is where we can come in as Americans. We have a voice to prevent crises like these from going unnoticed or happening at all. Those lawmakers had a chance to change the dire situation in Yemen, but they chose not to. Let's choose representatives who will truly protect our values, and most importantly, protect people like Amal.