Counting the Real Costs of the War on Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The fighting in Yemen has killed at least 57,000 people, and the real death toll is likely much higher:

The database gives an indication of the scope of the disaster wreaked in Yemen by nearly four years of civil war. At least 57,538 people – civilians and combatants – have been killed since the beginning of 2016, according to the data assembled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED.

That doesn’t include the first nine months of the war, in 2015, which the group is still analyzing. Those data are likely to raise the figure to 70,000 or 80,000 [bold mine-DL], ACLED’s Yemen researcher Andrea Carboni told The Associated Press. The organization’s count is considered by many international agencies to be one of the most credible, although all caution it is likely an underestimate because of the difficulties in tracking deaths.

The “official” death toll remains frozen at around 10,000, and that has allowed the outside world to shrug at the plight of Yemen’s civilian population and conclude that the war can’t be as bad as all that. Marc Lynch recounted a conversation he had with someone in the government:

Our government must know that the death toll is much higher, but it is choosing to accept a very low number to minimize the consequences of our indefensible policy there. When senior U.S. officials are hiding behind obviously outdated and inaccurate information to justify our government’s indifference to the disaster that we have helped to create, there isn’t going to be any urgency in bringing the conflict to a halt. The governments responsible for destroying Yemen predictably have no interest in an accurate accounting of the true costs of the war, and our government is no exception.

Those killed in fighting don’t account for most of the war’s casualties. The 57,000+ killed don’t include the hundreds of thousands that have already perished from hunger and disease, who are victims of this war just as much as the others, and it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the 14 million people on the verge of famine. The response to Yemen’s extraordinary humanitarian crisis has also been hampered by inadequate information.

Samuel Oakford reports:

As the fight for Hodeidah puts an increasing number of civilians in the line of fire, the UN may have a strategic interest in making such strong statements. Declarations of famine, or even the threat of them, often lead to greater leverage, increased funding, and more media attention.

But the UN cannot declare a famine simply because large numbers of people are going hungry, or even dying. It adheres to the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system – a method of analysing food insecurity designed to pull…

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