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Oxfam in America president breaks down Yemen's humanitarian crisis

Yemen has a major humanitarian crisis on its hands.

The country's civil war has displaced more than three million people and left three-quarters of the nation at risk of famine. To boot, the chaos has helped an al-Qaeda affiliate establish itself as a larger threat to the U.S. than al-Qaeda itself, officials say

Abby Maxman, President of Oxfam in America, visited Duke on Thursday to discuss the situation in Yemen and her recent trip to the country in a talk entitled "The Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen." While promoting a new partnership between Oxfam and Duke including research, professional development and events, Maxman shared her experience while commenting on the United States' involvement in the conflict. 

“This is currently the greatest humanitarian crisis in a time of more displacement since World War II,” she said. 

Maxman said that Oxfam has helped three million people in Yemen—one of the poorest countries in the Middle East—since the start of the civil war in 2015. 

Maxman credited current poverty in Yemen to four ongoing factors—access, competing institutions, inflation and delinquent paychecks. For example, one-third of the work force in Yemen is dependent on public salaries that have not been paid in the last 28 months, she said. 

As one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, 19.3 million people don’t have access to clean water, according to UNICEF. Oxfam has worked to provide clean water and sanitation access.

Maxman also shared recent difficulties with getting the crisis the media attention that it warrants, a difficult task in a news cycle constantly inundated with new developments. She said has met with U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Jim Risch (R-Id.), who have been involved with attempting to help and bring attention to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. 

One strategy Maxman has used is to provide anecdotes about Yemeni citizens—she shared the story of one family she spoke with, who chose to leave their home and belongings and spend their remaining money to travel to an internally displaced persons camp for safety. 

For Maxman, these stories represent a theme of “choice” as a defining factor of the crisis, as many civilian families in wartorn areas are seeking refuge from U.S. backed airstrikes. 

Maxman is attending the United Nations General Assembly meeting later this month to share her experience in Yemen, and hopes Oxfam’s new partnership with Duke will provide more opportunity and exposure for students to these issues. 

You can’t bomb your way to peace in this conflict,” she said. 


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