While the media was flooded with images of the starving children of Syria, the thousands of children suffering from Saudi Arabia’s U.S.-backed onslaught on Yemen made far fewer headlines.
The mainstream media was eager to report on the struggle for survival in Madaya. The mountain town near Syria’s southwestern border was once known as a popular resort destination in the Middle East, but its population is now reportedly being starved under a siege by the Syrian army.
However, the actual situation is far more complex. The U.S.-supported, so-called “moderate” rebels including the Nusra Front, the Syrian branch of al-Qaida, had first laid siege to the cities of Kefraya and Fua, leading to a retaliatory siege on Madaya by the Assad government. Those same rebel groups were also, in turn, responsible for allowing the starvation in Madaya to continue by occupying the city and keeping humanitarian aid out of reach of the populace as a strategic tactic. Additionally, many images used in media reports on Madaya turned out to be fake or misleading.
Meanwhile, far fewer journalists are covering the large-scale starvation and displacement taking place in Yemen, a situation caused by a bombing campaign and blockade led by Saudi Arabia and its allies and backed by U.S. military aid. The Nusra Front, one of the groups responsible for skyrocketing food prices in Madaya, also has the backing of the Saudi government, like many of the rebel forces in the region.
UNICEF reported in October that 537,000 Yemeni children were at risk of severe malnutrition nationwide, while Alexi O’Brien, reporting for Al-Jazeera in September, noted that the United Nations warned that 96,000 children were “starving and close to death” in the port city of al-Hodeidah, and an additional 8,000 children faced starvation in Aden in 2016.