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We Must Not Forget the Suffering of the Yemeni Population

We must continue to shout from the rooftops about the horrors in Yemen each day

Air strike in Sanaa 11 5 2015


"I SEE the damage everywhere and I see how many people are affected by the bombs. I feel scared when I see weapons and especially when I hear the sound of planes up in the sky. When you hear that sound it means a big explosion will follow and that people will be killed… Hospitals and schools are damaged too. For children there is no education anymore. Life is very difficult in Yemen right now.”

This week marks the second anniversary of the conflict in the Yemen. This is often referred to as a forgotten conflict, marginalised by the mainstream media and consigned to stub articles in national and international newspapers. But the words here from a thirteen-year-old Yemeni girl should chill the heart of every humanitarian across the world.

Two years on from the start of a Saudi-led military intervention against the country’s Houthi rebels, seven million Yemeni people are currently on the brink of starvation. Of these, more than two million nursery aged children are acutely malnourished, including half a million whose health is in critical danger. And the latest reports from charities and NGOs operating in the country show that the situation continues to deteriorate.

Shipments of aid and commercial goods entering Yemen continue to be delayed and diverted by Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies. This continues today, despite the fact that famine threatens to grip much of the country and where the local healthcare system is already on the brink of collapse. In February this year commercial shipments of food dropped by 41 per cent compared to the month before, causing the price of food commodities to continue to rise, with the minimum food basket now costing 31 per cent more than it did pre-crisis, so even where there is food some families can’t afford to eat.

Ahead of the debate in Parliament yesterday to mark this solemn anniversary, I received a briefing from Save the Children which stated that three of their recent shipments of life-saving medical supplies – including antibiotics, surgical equipment and medicine and enough aid to help 300,000 people – have been prevented from landing at the country’s main port of Hodeida, delaying their arrival by up to 3 months.

This is an inhumane, unacceptable act from a country that counts the UK as an important ally.

This conflict is horrifying and disastrous for the whole population, but it’s increasingly clear that children are bearing the biggest burden. Over the past two years, there has been more than 200 verified attacks on schools, 93 attacks on hospitals, and 232 cases of abduction and arbitrary detention of boys. These are only the verified incidents, so experts are of the view that the real figures are much higher.

Save the Children has stated that “there is significant, credible evidence that violations of international humanitarian law may have been committed by all parties to the conflict”.

But despite this, violations of human rights are not being properly and independently investigated, and this is preventing those responsible from being held to account. The UK Government must intervene as a matter of urgency to make sure that proper resources and expertise are in place to bring those who have violated and abused international law to account, no matter what side they are on.

Two years on, the violence and suffering of the Yemeni people continues. We can’t forget them, and we must press on and pressure the Tory Government and others to do all it can to bring the ordeal of the Yemeni people to an end.

We must continue to shout from the rooftops about the horrors that the population there face each day, and ensure that we keep the suffering of the Yemeni people at the forefront of the international political agenda.

That’s why it’s vital that the Westminster Government uses whatever influence it has with the protagonists on this conflict and demonstrate positive global leadership by acting now to help end the suffering of millions of Yemenis who are being used as pawns by both sides.

This must end now.

Over the last year Tory Ministers have crowed about their ability to take to the world stage again and to show world leadership on a range of issues, from promoting free trade to re-establishing the “Empire 2.0”. Rather than using their influence to recreate the past, I’d rather that Ministers in Whitehall use their time and resources to build a better future for the Yemeni people, free from the violence and terror that has hung over them for the past two years.

Source: The National

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