AID agencies have launched an urgent appeal for funds for the 18 million people in Yemen — three-quarters of the population — who need help to survive.
A civil war has been ongoing since 2015 between the Iran-backed Houthi movement and Saudi Arabia-backed government forces. Islamist militants from the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda are also seizing territory. About 10,000 people, including 4000 civilians, have been killed.
Tearfund has reported that the conflict has destroyed hospitals, leaving the injured without medical care. The destruction has been exacerbated by flooding and landslides.
The deputy lead for Tearfund in Eurasia, Latin America, and the Caribbean, Guy Calvert-Lee, said: “Massive destruction of medical-care facilities, such as hospitals and clinics, has meant there are no hospitals to go to, and millions of people are extremely ill, with recent outbreaks of cholera, dengue, and scabies affecting thousands of children.”
Money raised in the agency’s appeal will fund the distribution of hygiene kits and sanitation packs, to try to prevent the spread of diseases.
The UK Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) — of which most of the main aid agencies, including Tearfund, Christian Aid, and CAFOD, are members — has warned that Yemen is at “breaking point”. As many as seven million Yemenis are not able to feed themselves, and children are dying of malnutrition, it reports.
The director of CAFOD, Chris Bain, said: “We see immense suffering in the faces of people in Yemen, of the children whose young lives have been stunted by malnutrition, and of those who find themselves homeless, because of the conflict, and [are] in need of the basics of life — food, clean and safe water, and shelter.
“We hope and pray that the human suffering will end. Let us continue to keep the people of Yemen in our thoughts and prayers.”
CAFOD’s local partner in Yemen cannot be named for fear of attacks. It is using money from CAFOD to provide food to mothers and babies, and essential drugs and medical supplies, and water, to those who need it most.
An aid worker for Save the Children, which is also backing the DEC’s Yemen appeal, Alice Klein, who has recently returned from a trip to the country, told the Press Association last week that she had never seen anything like it: “You went into any health centre or hospital, and it was wall-to-wall with really desperate families with tiny babies.
“The babies and children were severely malnourished — as soon as the doctor began examining them and lifting up their clothes, you could see all their ribs jutting out.”
After the remarks made by the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, last week, criticising Saudi Arabia for operating a proxy war in Yemen, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said that Mr Johnson’s words did not represent the Government’s view.
At a subsequent press conference in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, Mr Johnson emphasised the “friendship” which existed between Britain and Saudi Arabia. “It’s also fair to say that we believe in candour in our relationship,” he said. “Now is the time for us to talk about the positive things that we are doing together.”
Britain is a significant supplier of weapons to the Saudi armed forces, and Saudi officials have confirmed that British advisers are involved in the planning of bombings across Yemen.
The International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, has said that the world could no longer ignore the humanitarian catastrophe that is unfolding in Yemen. “Yemen has become the ‘forgotten crisis’, despite more than ten million people desperately needing help, and the threat of famine hanging over the country. The UK has led the international community to step up its efforts, but more support is urgently needed, as this DEC appeal shows.”
The UK Government has made a commitment to match every pound given to the DEC appeal, up to a maximum of £5 million.