When Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving holiday in 1863, it was during our own Civil War. Lincoln wanted Thanksgiving to be a day of prayer for peace. Lincoln asked Americans to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”
We should make this Thanksgiving a day of prayer and action to end Yemen’s civil war. For on Thanksgiving Day mothers in Yemen will be watching their children perish from malnutrition, unless we do something about it.
Save the Children says thousands of Yemen’s kids are cut off from life saving aid because of the conflict between a Saudi Arabia led coalition against the Houthi rebels. Tamer Kirolos, the Save the Children director in Yemen, warns “Tens of thousands of children are living in areas completely cut off by war. Their circumstances could not be more dire. Not getting aid through to these children is a death sentence for many of them.”
There are over 20 million Yemenis living in hunger. The scars of war impact almost every family in Yemen.
On this Thanksgiving we cannot turn away from the pain of Yemen’s civil war victims. We must help them much like Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation called us to aid “those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.”
We should be a peacemaker and humanitarian in Yemen. That means the Trump administration must stop supporting the Saudi led coalition.
Trump has provided military aid and arms sales to the Saudis. This has tragically contributed to the Yemen civil war death toll which has risen to over 100,000 people since 2015 according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED).
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A report from Save the Children states “Among the most shocking incidents was the airstrike that killed 40 students and their teachers while on a school trip in August 2018. The bomb was dropped by Saudi planes but, according to reports based on analysis of the debris, had been built in the USA and was sold directly to the Saudi government.”
Hunger and malnutrition are also claiming Yemeni lives. 15-year old Badour, whose family fled the fighting, told Save the Children “Due to the war, we lack medicine and nutrition for the children who are sick.” Her sister is being treated for malnutrition and other siblings are sick too.
Save the Children says 85,000 Yemeni kids have died from hunger and disease since the war began. Those tragic numbers are in addition to the fatalities reported by ACLED.
The UN World Food Program (WFP) feeds 12 million Yemenis a month, their largest operation by far. They and other agencies need funding to keep the massive humanitarian operation going.
The Trump administration meanwhile has proposed cuts to global food aid in his first three budget proposals. We should be increasing food aid. And we must stop the war by ending our military support of the Saudis. That is the best way to help the UN led peace process for Yemen. We need to encourage a ceasefire, the safe passage of humanitarian aid to all Yemenis, and a lasting peace treaty. If the president won’t act the Congress must.
Bread for the World is petitioning Congress to act and save Yemen. Matt Gross, director of organizing says “Bread for the World has taken action for Yemen because the United States is complicit in this man-made crisis. We cannot stand idly by while millions continue to suffer because of the actions of our government.”
Faith leaders from across the country published a letter stating “By suspending all U.S. arms sales and military support to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the war in Yemen, Congress can show that the United States stands for a peaceful resolution of Yemen’s horrific conflict.”
On this Thanksgiving, as we remember Lincoln’s message of peace and unity, let’s bring an end to Yemen’s war and hunger.
William Lambers is an author who partnered with the UN World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.” His writing have been published by the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, History News Network and many other news outlets.