Digit war on Yemen: Why casualty figures are downplayed?

Alwaght- As the Saudi-led war on Yemen continues to intensify, with coalition airstrikes targeting not only Ansarullah movement and military personnel as Riyadh has claimed but also civilians, the death toll from the bloodshed has spiked since April when conflict broke out.

Harrowing videos and heartbreaking pictures of dead civilians, including women and children, have been broadcast and published on distinct media outlets giving a human face to what the media usually depicts in numbers.

Even so, detaching the human side from the figures can still have disturbing effect on viewers who will ultimately make up public opinion, especially when the number of casualties skyrockets.

However, under the pretext of independence and impartiality, some organizations are downplaying the death toll from the war on Yemen.

In its latest count, published on Sept. 24, the office of the U.N. human rights said the civilian death toll from the confrontations has exceeded 2,355 out of a total of 4,500 over the last six months. UNICEF published a report in October saying that 500 children are among the dead.

The agency’s figures did not include the victims of a Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a wedding party in Taiz province that killed more than 130 people, according to UN and Yemeni officials.

This exclusion of casualties puts a question mark on the toll’s validity. How many other casualties have been kept out from the count? How many other massacres have been dismissed and why?

The UN itself says the overall toll is underestimated.

Local sources have contested the U.N’s estimations putting the number of civilian casualties at a much larger scale.

The Yemeni Civil Coalition has estimated that the victims of the Saudi aggression had almost reached 20,000 in September. The number of injuries was estimated at 13,552 while the death count was recorded as 6,400 including 1,698 children, 1,308 women, and 3,085 men.

While the reason in this difference may be a casual mistake, it also surpasses the margin of error. Counting dead bodies in hospital beds, on the street, or under the rubble in addition to the unaccounted for, should not be taken lightly.

Attempting to minimize the number of civilian casualties suits the Saudis who are becoming increasingly under the spotlight for the rising death figures. The more civilians die as a result of indiscriminate Saudi-led airstrikes on heavily-populated residential areas, hospitals, bridges, and highways, the higher the liability, Riyadh has to face before the “international community”, however inconsequential it may be.

Yet, those who remain alive are not completely saved. Facing a humanitarian crisis, high-risks of famine, scarce medical care are other causes of death brought about by the same hand in this war.

“Yemen’s 6-month conflict has left thousands of people in need of treatment, caused extensive damage to health facilities, and fanned a dengue fever outbreak,” the World Health Organization said in a statement.

More likely than not, the Saudis will get away with it in spite of the high number of civilian casualties. How do we know? Just look at the historical Israeli example. In comparison to the Gaza Strip’s area of 360 km2 and a population of 1.5 million where more than 2000 Palestinians were killed in 2014, the Saudis’ killings, percentage-wise, are so far less than those of the Israelis. The Zionist regime has not been held accountable for its crimes against humanity and it seems that as long as the west keeps supporting it and downplaying the number of victims, the Saudi monarchy will also get away with murder.

This article was written by Fatima Hanan Elreda for Alwaght on Oct. 7, 2015.