The United Nations is Failing the World
by Noah Phillips
In the midst of a once-in-a-generation pandemic, the body looked to for international stability and a steady hand in guiding global affairs, the United Nations, has failed to address the needs of those most desperate for assistance.
Yemen's civil war and associated humanitarian crisis — presently the worst in the world — has ravaged the country and region for years, and the global pandemic has only complicated matters. To begin to address concerns of virus spread, the United Nations has spent months attempting to negotiate a ceasefire between the Houthi rebels prominent in the north of Yemen and the internationally recognized government of the south. In early April, after two weeks of unsuccessful United Nations calls for both sides to lay down arms, the Saudi coalition in Yemen announced that it had unilaterally brokered a ceasefire between the two sides. Since then, the United Nations' Ramesh Rajasingham, acting assistant secretary-general for Human Affairs, reported 177 civilian casualties or fatalities in the month of April, on top of hundreds more of combatants — an increase from previous months in spite of the purported ceasefire. Significant bouts of conflict persist in the Marib, Bayda, and Dhale governorates. Intermittent fighting continues in Yemen's most utilized port city of Hodeida, the place responsible for ushering international aid into the country. While U.N. envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths reported "significant progress" in brokering a lasting ceasefire, results are yet to be seen in a state in which thousands are endangered with each passing day.
What can be worse than warfare in a country soon to be plagued by pandemic? Actively contributing to the spread of the virus in a pre-existing humanitarian crisis — and that's exactly what the United Nations has done. Thirty-one of the 41 major U.N. relief programs in Yemen are set to expire in the coming weeks unless renewed funding is issued, a conversation that has not materialized. Griffiths pleaded in a video briefing to the U.N. Security Council for $2 billion of funding toward these programs. In his words, the United Nations is hanging the people of Yemen out to dry, abandoning the direst situation in the world as a lost cause. The slow bureaucratic proceedings of the coronavirus era are no excuse for the world's most robust international body to turn the other cheek on what is sure to be an unimaginable catastrophe developing in Yemen.
A similar scene occurred in eastern Syria, where the United Nations and the World Health Organization would not fund private charities carrying aid to those residing in the anti-Assad areas of Syria, at the behest of the Assad regime. In fact, the United Nations interacts only with the Assad regime, not communicating whatsoever with the various local municipalities and authorities despite their cries for international aid. The Assad regime has made a concerted attempt at disguising the Syrian coronavirus outbreak and has not imposed any travel restrictions on citizens.
Looming pandemics in Yemen and Syria are the type of crises that the United Nations was built for, to concentrate the power and wealth of all nations and consequentially shape pockets of the world in times of urgency. But unbelievably, U.N. resources have barely scratched the surface of need in either country, failing the organization itself and, more importantly, citizens reliant on international aid for subsistence and medical care. At present, 106 confirmed cases of the virus have hit Yemen and 48 Syria, statistics undoubtedly deflated from depleted health systems, insufficient testing measures, or intentional deception from officials. In Yemen and Syria, a perfect storm is brewing for the proliferation of the coronavirus, and it's the sole responsibility of the United Nations to aggressively support both countries in warding off the virus.