Last planet are also the sickest”. While Yemen has

Last week, I read
an article in the New York Times,
called It’s a Slow Death’: The World’s
Worst Humanitarian Crisis. It talked about the recent cholera outbreak in
Yemen, which killed almost 2,000 people in three weeks and infected over

authors have presented three critical graphs in this article. The first one is
a thematic map of cholera case density in Yemen. The map shows that western
Yemen is the most heavily affected, several parts of which have reached an
infection rate of 300 per 10,000 people. In the second graph, a comparison is
made among the cholera outbreaks in different countries in the past 50 years,
while Yemen mounted towards other largest outbreaks such as those in Peru
(1991) and Haiti (2011). The third one is also a thematic map of areas
controlled by different military forces including Houthi-Saleh, Saudi-led
Arabic coalition, and Al-Qaeda. As Houthi-Saleh has taken over western Yemen,
the area has suffered greatly from Saudi-led air strikes, with heavy casualties
as well as the destruction of infrastructure.

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From a geographic
perspective, the areas with heaviest war destruction overlap tremendously with
those of high cholera infection rate, which strikes me as it resonates with
deBlij’s view of “the poorest and weakest on the planet are also the
sickest”. While Yemen has long been the poorest country in the Arab world, the
ongoing civil war has ruined most of its basic infrastructure, including
transportation system, hospitals, and sewage. Poor hygiene provides a hotbed
for the cholera virus, which breeds inside the already malnourished people and
is later aggravated by the shortage of medical care from both domestic and
international providers. However, cholera is not a life-threatening disease in
developed countries given proper sanitation and antibiotics. In other parts of
Yemen, there is neither such high rate of infection. Therefore, by comparing
spatially, it demonstrates that health conditions are largely affected by the
geographic variation in access to needs (clean water, food, sewage) and medical
services (hospitals and medicines). By comparing the current status with the
past, it is clear to tell that human activities can greatly change the human
characteristics of a place, while violent conflicts in this particular case
have drastically worsened the living conditions of the local Yemenis people.

So far, what I
learned in this class has helped me develop a basic mindset of geography and I
gradually get to understand the complexity of human geography as in how
different geographic components intertwine with each other and change
synergistically. In this case, the civil war made the country barely
functioning, which also triggered a series of changes: human health was
immediately threatened; the economy ceased to develop; regional and national
gap could actually be widened. In the era of globalization, when other
countries are moving rapidly forward, Yemen may stagnate for years while it is
supposed to be “flattening”.

As for the personal
connection, I have never been so immersed in the internal affairs of other
countries in the world before taking this class. However, now I can’t stop
thinking of the poor Yemenis people, constrained by their country, with very
few opportunities to change their lives, when I am receiving a high education
here, enjoying the convenience of technology and embracing the abundance of
opportunities, which does not seem equal to me at all. This understanding of
“the power of place” comes with such bitterness and I wish we may be able to
change it one day