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‘Nobody’s talking about it:’ B.C. man’s mission to raise awareness about the crisis in Yemen

Click to play video 'B.C. man is on a mission to raise awareness about the crisis in Yemen' B.C. man is on a mission to raise awareness about the crisis in Yemen
As the humanitarian crisis in Yemen grows Wyle Baoween is doing his part to raise awareness about the conflict in his homeland and the toll it's taking. – Dec 4, 2020

A B.C. man is on a mission to inform people about what the United Nations is calling the worst humanitarian crisis in the world with more than 24 million people in need.

Wyle Baoween refers to what’s happening in Yemen as the “forgotten war” and said while there is a community of Yemeni refugees in the province and Canadian organizations who are providing aid, very few people know about what’s happening in his homeland.

“It’s a situation where millions of people are affected, 85 per cent of the populations are in need for humanitarian aid and nobody’s talking about it,” Baoween told Global News.

Baoween is from Yemen and moved to B.C. in 2011 when the political state of unrest was starting to ramp up. He is now the CEO of the Canadian consulting firm HRx.

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“We don’t have that coverage in media, we don’t have that support, it’s really hard to get information from the country, the cases of kids dying from malnutrition are just so sad, so sad,” Baoween said.

Click to play video 'Humanitarian crisis in Yemen worsens amid civil war and COVID-19' Humanitarian crisis in Yemen worsens amid civil war and COVID-19
Humanitarian crisis in Yemen worsens amid civil war and COVID-19 – Sep 26, 2020

Read more: Millions of Yemeni children face threat of starvation as aid dries up amid COVID-19: UNICEF

The ongoing war in the country between a Saudi-led military coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, along with severe malnutrition, cholera outbreaks and limited humanitarian aid has led to devastating consequences, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The agency said there is a significant risk of further deaths due to violence, treatable illness, and lack of food, water and shelter.

It is appealing for donations amid added challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Two things happening recently because of COVID – one of them is not many countries are supporting the funding they promised so there is lack of funding,” Baoween said, adding “then the other one is just the complicated logistics of getting that support and aid to Yemen which makes it really hard for people to get what they need.”

The UN said it has seen a significant increase in humanitarian assistance demand around the world as a direct result of the pandemic, pushing the number of people in need to new highs.

One in 33 people will need aid to meet basic needs like food, water and sanitation in 2021, a 40 per cent increase from 2020, the UN said in its Global Humanitarian Overview 2021.

Click to play video 'COVID-19 threatens to increase poverty in East Africa, Yemen' COVID-19 threatens to increase poverty in East Africa, Yemen
COVID-19 threatens to increase poverty in East Africa, Yemen – Jun 7, 2020

Read more: Coronavirus pandemic has led to 40% increase of people seeking humanitarian aid: UN

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For Baoween, the pandemic has meant greater uncertainty for when he’ll see his family.

He said in 2015 his sister, who was pregnant at the time, was able to escape the country with their mother and her son.

They went to Jordan where they currently live as refugees and a multiple-year effort to bring them to Canada recently stalled, he added.

“In March this year, we got the good news that they have been accepted to come [to Canada] as refugees and then COVID-19 hit and since then everything just stopped,” Baoween said. “We don’t know when they are coming, there is no update, we’ve been talking and asking and calling people and there is just no update.”

Baoween also volunteers with a B.C.-based organization called MOSAIC to support refugees in part through settlement services.

Through his job at HRx, he often holds seminars about equity bias and discrimination and works with a number of local organizations looking for ways to become more inclusive.

He’s encouraging everyone to learn more about his war-torn homeland and how they can contribute to the aid efforts.

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“There is a lot of information about what is happening in Yemen… I would like people to know about that I would like to raise awareness, I would like people to talk about it and help if they can,” Baoween said.