Saturday, August 8, 2020

Yemen's Multilayered War: The Failing Healthcare Infrastructure

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Air strike Al-Thawra hospital, Hodeida on August 2, 2018 | Photo credit: ABDO HYDER/AFP/Getty Images | Source: Felton Davis via Flickr

This is the 6th and last part of a short explainer article series on the current crisis in Yemen. To read the earlier parts of the series click on the link.

To read the 1st part of the series click on the link.

To read the 2nd part of the series click on the link.

To read the 3rd part of the series click on the link.

To read the 4th part of the series click on the link.

To read the 5th part of the series click on the link.

The civil war in Yemen, more so after 2015 has taken a toll on the civic infrastructure of the already fragile and poor country. Among these, the healthcare infrastructure of the country was one of the worst affected.

Apart from the physical damage to the hospitals and clinics due to the aerial bombings by the Saudi Arabia led coalition, the naval blockades exacerbated the dire situation. In June 2015 itself, aid agencies warned of the humanitarian risks brought by the US and UK-backed Saudi blockades.

The humanitarian situation aggravated further as there was a consistent famine since 2016 and Yemen was dependent on foreign aid for feeding almost 80% of its population.  According to UNICEF reports, over 3.3 million children and pregnant or lactating women suffer from acute malnutrition.

In 2017, the World Food Programme estimated that an additional 3.2 million people would be pushed into hunger. If left untreated, 150,000 malnourished children could die within the coming months.

Save the Children, the international charity and aid agency, estimated that 85,000 children under the age of five have starved to death in between 2015 to 2018.

Major healthcare operatives are dying due to the active bombing and conflict in Yemen, including personnel from MSF and United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHO).

The MSF (or Doctors Without Borders), who have been in Yemen since 2007, have reported that fears of stigmatization are causing people to stay away from hospitals, with misinformation and lack of medical services only compounding the healthcare issue during the pandemic.

As of 24th July, the country reports 1640 confirmed infections and 458 related deaths.  Al Jazeera reported that “Cemeteries in Aden are overflowing with graves, suggesting that the number of people killed by the new coronavirus is higher than the official count.” Yemen and its related aid agencies also suffer from lack of PPEs and adequate information about the pandemic.

As of April 2020, there are 800,000 internally displaced persons in just one province of Yemen Marib. The number of verified civilian deaths stands at 7,700.

The United Nations has been continually asking for donations, but has failed to collect as much as it requires. While it collected $4 billion last year, it has only received $700 million, halfway into 2020.

The UN urged for $2.4 billion this year to fight the humanitarian crises and the Coronavirus. As of 2nd June, 29 countries and the European Commission pledged a total of $1.35 billion to support humanitarian efforts in Yemen, just over half of the amount needed to sustain programs through the end of this year.

In April 2020, the Saudi deputy defence minister, Prince Khalid bin Salman, said Saudi Arabia “will contribute $500m to the UN humanitarian relief program for Yemen in 2020, and an additional $25m to help combat the pandemic. It is up to Houthis to put the health and safety of the Yemeni people above all else.”

There are 41 major UN programmes in Yemen, and it is estimated that more than 30 of them will close due to lack of funds. The UN stated, “Due to the COVID-19 suppression measures, all integrated outreach activities, which include the Expanded Programme on Immunization, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness, Maternal and Newborn Health,and nutrition activities, were suspended.”

Most of Yemen's 3,500 medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed in air strikes, and only half are thought to be fully functioning. Officials warn that monetary relief may not be enough to assist in the war against the pandemic alongside the Civil War. A solution to the war must be found soon, before the pandemic eviscerates more of the healthcare infrastructure.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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