From China to Yemen to Lebanon and more, the events of 2020 have affected others in the world
With everything that has happened so far this year, it’s not a stretch to call 2020 a crisis. It has been filled with unexpected events, such as COVID-19, racial justice protests, and even murder hornets. The rest of the world has not had it easy either and not just because of the pandemic. Yemen, Lebanon, and China have also experienced tragedies. Lebanon’s tragic event was abrupt, but what is going on in Yemen and China has been going on for years.
On August 4 in Beirut, Lebanon, at least 154 were killed, and thousands were left injured, in a gigantic explosion at a warehouse in the Port of Beirut. The force from the blast left vast amounts of damage to the surrounding buildings and neighborhoods and produced a mushroom cloud of fumes and debris, a lot of which was harmful to breathe. The explosion was so powerful it could be felt 150 miles away. The explosion was caused by an ignited cache of ammonium nitrate, according to The Wall Street Journal. Ammonium nitrate is a chemical compound commonly used in fertilizers, but it can also be used to make explosives. It was held at the site for over six years.
The ammonium nitrate was originally on a ship that was supposed to be delivered to the country of Georgia in 2013. Due to technical difficulties with the boat, it had to be docked in Beirut, and it was later abandoned there. The ammonium nitrate was stored in the warehouse that was supposed to dispose of the chemical safely. Officials at the port are now under house arrest as the investigation continues, according to The Wall Street Journal.
More than a million Uighur Muslims and other Muslim minority groups are being held in the Xinjiang region of China. Uighurs are a Turkic speaking minority ethnic group originating from the general region of Central and East Asia. There has been conflict with China and Uighurs since 1931. China is referring to these sites as transformation camps. A woman named Gulzira who told her story to PBS Frontline said she was surrounded by mesh, barbed wire, cameras, and brutal treatment. She said that twice she had to sit on a hard chair for 24 hours and use the bathroom where she sat. She also told PBS, “If you exceeded two minutes in the toilet, they hit our heads with an electric prod.”
Jeffersonville High School special education teacher David Russell taught in China for a while and has first hand experience seeing the work of the Chinese government.
Russell says China likes the idea of complete conformity. “Any nail that sticks up is hammered down,” he says. That is why China has targeted those who follow certain religions. “I witnessed anti-Christian persecution. People got arrested for going to church. Their form of anti-Islam is just not conforming,” Russell says. “It’s Orwellian, and it’s gotten worse.” It will take many Chinese activists because many websites reporting on it are shut down, and the people running them are being arrested. However, Russell says that he doesn’t want to reflect poorly on the Chinese since he enjoyed his time living there, and he enjoyed the people he met.
Yemen is also harshly affected by the events of 2020, but it’s an existing problem that has become worse in their case. According to Islamic Relief USA, for about five years, Yemen has been in a famine. Famine is the extreme scarcity of food and is often caused by droughts. More than 85,000 children have died from the famine as of 2018. In May of 2020, UNICEF described Yemen as the most massive humanitarian crisis in the world. They are already starved, and as COVID-19 sweeps the area, their ability to find resources has worsened. Over 24 million people are in need. Hospitals often have no staff, no equipment, or even electricity. The doctors are so overwhelmed that they have to turn people away. Yemen’s child malnutrition rates are some of the highest in the world. About half of the children under five years old are growth stunted.
Yemen is also a war-torn country where civil war has taken a terrible toll on the resources and infrastructure necessary to keep people healthy. This civil war resulted from continued violence and unrest from the Arab Spring (2014), where the people rose and tried to create a democracy.
Even as America is hit hard with COVID-19 and all the other challenges of 2020, often it is easy to forget the many other challenges happening all across the world.
Written by Marni Scholl