British Columbia

'We call it the forgotten war,' says Yemeni immigrant

Yemen is in the midst of what the UN is calling the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, as the country continues to face extreme famine, cholera and conflict.

Wyle Baoween hopes to raise awareness as humanitarian crisis grows

Wyle Baoween moved to Canada in 2011 to continue his studies. (CBC)

Yemen is in the midst of what the United Nations is calling the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, as the country continues to face extreme famine, cholera and conflict.

One Yemeni immigrant in Vancouver, Wyle Baoween, said he is shocked at how little awareness there is about the conflict.

Baoween, 39, frequently talks to Canadians who haven't heard much about the situation, he told CBC's guest host of The Early Edition Stephen Quinn.

"We call it the forgotten war," he said. "We arrange some small events to talk about what is happening in Yemen and people are so shocked that this is happening."

Baoween was born and raised in the coastal city Aden. He moved to British Columbia in 2011 to complete an MBA at the University of Victoria.

When he first left Yemen, he had no idea that he would not be able to return to live there after his studies.

"It was a poor country but there was no war there, Aden was a stable city," Baoween said. "I have beautiful memories from when I was there."

People stand near a house destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen on July 10, 2015. More than 10,000 civilians have been killed and 40,000 injured since the conflict began. (Hani Mohammed/Associated Press)

Toll of conflict

Prior to the civil war, Yemen was one of the region's poorest and was ranked 168 out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index. After more than two years of civil war, conditions have significantly deteriorated.

Now, Yemen has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world and seven million people are at risk of famine. The world's worst cholera epidemic has been raging in the country for months and, each day, an estimated 5,000 more Yemenis are infected.

"It's really bad, to the point that you don't want to think about it," Baoween said. "I think it will take decades to get Yemen to what I remember."

Next steps

Baoween's mother and sister fled the conflict and, like three million other Yemenis, are displaced. They are currently in Jordan, going through the refugee application process with the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) and Canadian government. Baoween's father died in Yemen, unable to get the medical attention he needed for underlying medical conditions.

For now, Baoween is focused on raising awareness and collecting funds to send back to Yemen with organizations like UNICEF, UNHCR, Doctors Without Borders and the Mercy Corps.

"What we can do is just support and help, send some money here and there and donate what we can," he said. "A little bit of money goes a long way there."

To hear the full interview with Wyle Baoween, click on the audio link below. 

With files from The Early Edition

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