Ukraine isn’t the only country that needs our help

American media shouldn’t forget the crises in Syria and Yemen when covering Ukraine


According to the U.N. around 13.3 million Syrians have been displaced since 2011 due to the country’s civil war. Almost half of the world’s refugees are under 18 years old. (Photo By Ggia/Wikimedia Commons)

Christiaan McCray, Staff Writer

The Russian invasion of Ukraine signaled the dawn of the latest world conflict. Mass media is fully focused in this war, social media has been flooded with support toward Ukraine and news channels have not gone a day without reporting on the conflict since Russia invaded. But where is this attention for other wars going on worldwide?

I’m not downplaying the atrocities in Ukraine, and I understand the severity of this war, especially since Russia is a nuclear power. Nevertheless, the same crimes against humanity that are occurring in Ukraine have been happening for decades in non-European countries. Yet these conflicts have not gotten enough attention, specifically the wars in the Middle East.

Over 30 million people watched President Joe Biden emphatically stand by Ukraine’s side during the State of the Union on March 1. However, Biden did not speak about the horrors going on in Syria and Yemen.

The Middle East has not gone a year without a country at war since 2003. The longest war during that span is the ongoing Syrian civil war. It has caused at least 350,000 casualties with 3,746 happening in 2021 alone, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Last year’s casualties included 1,505 civilians, 360 of which were children. The decade-long conflict sadly has no end in sight.

Due to everlasting conflict, 12.4 million Syrians lack consistent access to food, which is nearly 70% of the population, according to the World Food Programme. While Russian billionaires have their assets frozen less than a month into the war in Ukraine, just last October, Interpol allowed Syria to rejoin its network without objections from the U.S. It seems as the war continues, relations with the Syrian regime are becoming normalized with no backlash.

Despite these recent events, there has been no recent coverage on these matters. The only reason the war got any significant coverage from the media was due to the Syrian refugee crisis. The issue remains the world’s largest refugee and displacement crisis with 13.5 million Syrians being forcibly displaced. The coverage of this crisis can be ascribed to the mass migration of Syrian refugees into European countries.

With the American media and the government focused on the Ukraine conflict, the world has disengaged from the Syrian civil war. The longer this goes on, the more Syrians will die.

Less than 1,500 miles away, Yemen is also in a civil war. The conflict dates back to 2011 and turned into a full-blown civil war in 2014 when the Houthi rebel forces took over the capital city Sanaa, forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. The war caused an unrelenting famine in Yemen that left up to 19 million Yemenis food insecure which is 64% of the population.

Both the Houthi movement and Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi’s government have committed several horrific crimes against humanity. The only route to a resolution is to hold both parties accountable and not choose sides; however, the U.S. government has openly backed the Saudi coalition.

U.S. laws prohibit selling arms to abusive governments, but the government continues arms sales with the coalition. If the U.S. persists in choosing sides, the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis will carry on fighting, and Yemenis will continue to endure the famine.

The lack of media coverage of the Syrian and Yemen wars can partially be attributed to the length of the wars. Both wars have been occurring for over five years and the Ukraine war is the latest and most intriguing news story. However, atrocities are still happening in these wars. In January and February, at least 47 children were wounded or killed due to the Yemen civil war, and this month in Syria, two Syrian civilians were killed in a missile attack. These recent tragedies plus the hunger issues transpiring in both countries deserve significant media attention no matter how long the wars have lasted.

Another reason is the clear double standards that the media displays over non-European conflicts. Constantly, Western media labels the Ukrainian government and civilians as “heroes” and label rebel forces like the Houthis as “terrorists.” Both coalitions are fighting for freedom from corrupt governments and both utilize inhumane methods in the process. In Ukraine, Black immigrant students and Black Africans have been victims of racial abuse at the border. They’ve been forced to stay in the country while guards let white Ukrainians flee from the country. This clear hypocrisy sets a haunting precedent in Western media that certain lives matter more than others.

According to a January 2021 Pew Research Center study, 86% of Americans get their news from digital devices and 68% get their news from television. If you turn to any news channel, none are talking about the severity of the conflicts occurring in Syria and Yemen. If Ukraine was to endure a famine at this very moment, every news channel would cover it. Syria and Yemen have been facing staggering numbers of food insecurity for years, and it feels like no one bats an eye.

I’m not asking for news organizations to take attention off the Ukraine conflict. The media’s job is to cover major world conflicts and the Syrian, Yemeni, and many other wars have been brushed off to the side. Not all wars are created equal, but all crimes against humanity should come to the forefront.