Financial Aid Event Leads to Deadly Stampede in Yemen

Financial Aid Event Leads to Deadly Stampede in Yemen

( – Muslim communities celebrate the end of Ramadan, the month-long period of reflective prayer and fasting, with the observance of Eid al-Fitr, when many give gifts to children and the less fortunate. In Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa, merchants had arranged an unsanctioned charity event at a school in the older part of the city the day before the Eid celebration, planning to donate 5000 Yemeni Riyals per person or about $20 to thousands of needy citizens. The event turned deadly on Wednesday, April 19, when hopeful people seeking alms overwhelmed the venue, and the organizers tried to control the crowd using gunfire, sparking a stampede.

A senior government official reported at least 78 people were killed and 73 others injured, according to the Al-Masirah satellite TV channel associated with the Houthi-run rebel government. Yemen fell victim to a civil war in 2014 when Shiite Houthi insurgents rebelled against the Sunni government and captured Sanaa and the western quarter of Yemen backed by Iranian support. Saudi Arabia, with US logistical support, stepped in to bolster the Sunni government in exile in its attempt to reclaim the capitol and rebel-held territory. The resulting proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia may have cost as many as 377,000 Yemeni lives through the end of 2021 when counting “both direct and indirect impacts,” according to the UN.

The war has destabilized Yemen’s economy, resulting in a profound humanitarian crisis. According to the UN, the conflict has displaced 4.5 million people (14% of the population), while 21.6 million people, or two-thirds of the total population, stand in dire need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Hunger became more severe when grains from Russia and Ukraine became unavailable because of the conflict raging between the two. Yemen imports 90% of its food, and until the Ukrainian war, 45% of its wheat came from those two nations, according to Foreign Policy.

The Houthi-run Sanaa government arrested the charity event organizers pending an investigation. Additionally, NPR reported it has promised to compensate each family who lost a member with $2000 and assist the injured with $400 and medical expenses.

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