A woman brings her child to hospital in Yemen to be treated for severe acute malnutrition.
ADEN, Yemen — While the media was flooded with images of the starving children of Syria, the thousands of children suffering from Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-backed onslaught on Yemen made far fewer headlines.
The mainstream media was eager to report on the struggle for survival in Madaya. The mountain town near Syria’s southwestern border was once known as a popular resort destination in the Middle East, but its population is now reportedly being starved under a siege by the Syrian army.
Meanwhile, far fewer journalists are covering the large-scale starvation and displacement taking place in Yemen, a situation caused by a bombing campaign and blockade led by Saudi Arabia and its allies and backed by U.S. military aid. The Nusra Front, one of the groups responsible for skyrocketing food prices in Madaya, also has the backing of the Saudi government, like many of the rebel forces in the region.
The situation was so dire nationwide that, in June, the U.N. reported “that at least six million people in Yemen are in urgent need of emergency food and life-saving assistance, a new United Nations (UN) investigation has found … 10 out of Yemen’s 22 governorates are facing an ‘emergency level’ food security situation amid the ongoing conflict, including major areas like Aden, Taiz, Saa’da and Al Baida.” In July, Oxfam reported that the number of starving people in Yemen had topped 6 million — nearly half the country’s population of 13 million. Aid workers are struggling to reach the needy, with the World Food Programme reporting that it had served 3.5 million Yemenis by August.
While the suffering of the residents of Madaya is heart-wrenching, some critics have questioned the motives behind the media’s focus on this single town rather than suffering in Yemen or even elsewhere in Syria.Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the U.N. Security Council, lamented recently that the timing of the reports seemed calculated to undermine the budding peace process in Syria, according to a report from RT. “It looks like that, under the pretext of the deterioration of the situation in besieged cities, attempts are being made to undermine the launch of the inter-Syrian dialogue scheduled for January 25,” he told an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Saturday.
Safronkov said the West practices a “double standard” by raising the alarm about Madaya while ignoring cities besieged by anti-Assad forces:
“Much is being said about Madaya, but not a word about the villages of Nubul and Az-Zahra in the province of Aleppo. And we are talking about the fate of tens of thousands of people.”
On Monday, Ben Norton, politics staff writer for Salon, cited the siege of Yemen, as well as Israel’s decade-long blockade of Gaza, when he questioned why some atrocities are condemned and others are “barely even acknowledged.” He wrote:
“All sieges are of course tragic, because they harm civilians. There should be outrage at the siege on Madaya, but there should be proportionate outrage. All of the other ongoing sieges — and the much larger blockades — that happened to be supported by the West should not conveniently be ignored.
Americans, in particular, should be concerned about the millions upon millions of people being starved in policies backed by their ostensibly democratic government, right at this very moment.”