Photo by Micah Albert
By Micah Albert
Apolis Advocate Micah Albert is passionate about the Middle East and has been traveling to Yemen on and off since 2008 working on food insecurity stories as well as the rapidly growing Somali refugee population. In 2011 he traveled to Yemen, along with Syria, Sudan, and Jordan to work on stories during the Arab Spring.
The combination of declining oil revenues, growing numbers of Somali refugees, rising world food prices and the rebirth of Al Qaeda is set to have a long-term negative impact on Yemen’s food insecure and geographic significance to two continents.
Yemen is the least-developed country in the Middle East and trouble is brewing for this Gulf nation. Yemen’s oil sector provides 90 percent of export earnings and the little oil they do have is running out. Meanwhile Yemen is headed for collapse; it is grappling with high levels of poverty, rising unemployment, catastrophic countrywide water shortages, and the fertility rate is booming.
The number of registered Somali refugees living in Yemen has exceeded 100,000. Yemen is also dealing with a humanitarian problem in the northwestern governorate of Sa’ada, where an escalation of a conflict in January 2007 led to the displacement of over 40,000 people.
Al Qaeda look to establish a base for itself in Yemen, similar to what it has on the Pakistan – Afghanistan border, acting as a conduit into the Horn of Africa.
Meanwhile, Yemen’s growing 21 million people are suffering and the marginal are becoming malnourished.
Yemen’s weak government and porous borders have created a fertile ground for terrorists and even though Al Qaeda never formally claimed responsibility to the 2000 bombing of the Cole, bin Laden praised those who “destroyed a destroyer that fearsome people fear” have lead many to think that there are still training camps left over from the 1990’s. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are also recognized legal organizations in Yemen.
With a literal black hole of a failed state a stone throw across the Gulf of Aden to Somalia, the natural progression of extremism will follow this path of least resistance not only into Somalia but also into the generally insecure and soon-to-be more insecure Horn of Africa. As Somalia continues its downward spiral into chaos, weapons proliferate on a well-worn path into Africa and Sudan’s referendum on the horizon; Africa will become the new frontier for extremism and potential sites for harboring ambiguous funding as well as terrorist cells.
As it slips further down the slippery slope of single commodity dependence and its petrodollars evaporating as quickly as its water resources, Arabia’s southern outpost has few variables to mitigate its total collapse. The implementation of a new $24 million emergency operation to assist over half a million food insecure in 21 governorates by the World Food Programme is one beginning effort to help strengthen an immediate need of Yemen’s people.
As Yemen’s chronic economic, demographic, natural resource, political, security and human development challenges are only growing worse with each passing year, the securing of Yemen doesn’t just have a direct result in that country but will also have great implications for east Africa.
About the author: Micah Albert is an Apolis Advocate and regular contributor to the Apolis Journal. Since 2006, Micah has traveled to over 60 countries, 25 refugee camps, six conflict zones, four rebel-controlled territories, and has worked on over 75 reportage stories. His photographs have appeared in publications worldwide including The New York Times, Time, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, National Geographic, and BBC News.