HALF of Yemen’s population are facing “pre-famine conditions,” a United Nations report warned today as the war-ravaged country’s humanitarian catastrophe deepens.
The UN humanitarian chief has warned “there is a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen”.
Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that this famine would be
much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives.
He said “the situation is now much graver” than when he warned of famine in Yemen at the beginning of 2017 and again last November. That is because “of the sheer number of people at risk”, he said.
Lowcock said the UN now thinks last month’s estimate that 11 million people could soon face “pre-famine conditions” and need aid to survive was wrong, and the number is actually 14 million — half of Yemen’s population.
How did we get here?
Houthi rebels tried to seize power from the internationally-recognized president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, in September 2014, leading to a Saudi-led aerial campaign to restore him to power the following spring. Since then, the U.N. says thousands of civilians have been killed and injured, and more than 3 million have been displaced from their homes.
The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Houthi Shiite rebels, who toppled the internationally recognised government. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict, which has killed over 10,000 people and sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and a cholera epidemic.
Food prices have surged 20 percent since fighting began last year, and a Saudi-imposed blockade has impaired food deliveries to a country that, before the conflict, imported 90 percent of its food stocks.
In addition, cholera — the often fatal waterborne diarrheal disease — also is starting to appear, with 61 confirmed cases and 1,700 suspected cases in 10 governorates.
At the beginning of 2017, the United Nations and its partners were able to provide aid to 3 million hungry Yemenis. Since then, assistance has been scaled up, reaching 8 million people in September because of generous funding from donors, Mr Lowcock said, but far below the 14 million people who may need it.
Mr Lowcock said three conditions are required for famine to be declared: At least one in five households faces an extreme lack of food, more than 30% of children under five are suffering from acute malnutrition, and at least two out of every 10,000 people are dying every day.
For three years, Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been wracked by a bloody war between the Houthi rebels and supporters of Yemen’s internationally recognised government.
The Houthis and the Yemeni government have battled on and off since 2004, but much of the fighting was confined to the Houthis’ stronghold, northern Yemen’s impoverished Saada province.
In September 2014, the Houthis took control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and proceeded to push southwards towards the country’s second-biggest city, Aden. In response to the Houthis’ advances, a coalition of Arab states launched a military campaign in 2015 to defeat the Houthis and restore Yemen’s government.
Many foreign countries are involved in Yemen’s war.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Arab states to defeat the Houthis in Yemen. The coalition includes Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan and Senegal. Several of these countries have sent troops to fight on the ground in Yemen, while others have only carried out air attacks.
The US government regularly launches air attacks on al-Qaeda and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) targets in Yemen, and recently admitted to having deployed a small number of troops on the ground. The US, along with other western powers such as the UK and France, has also supplied the Saudi-led coalition with weapons and intelligence.
Iran has denied arming the Houthi rebels, but the US military said it intercepted arms shipments from Iran to Yemen this March, claiming it was the third time in two months that this had occurred. Iranian officials have also suggested they may send military advisers to support the Houthis.
Have there been breaches of humanitarian law?
The Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused by rights groups of unlawful airstrikes on civilian targets, some of which, they say, may amount to war crimes. Riyadh insists it does all it can to avoid civilian casualties, though a UN panel of experts that reviewed 10 Saudi airstrikes reported in January that “even if the Saudi Arabia-led coalition had targeted legitimate military objectives … it is highly unlikely that the principles of international humanitarian law of proportionality and precautions in attack were respected”.
The panel found Saudi denials of involvement in these specific airstrikes were implausible, and individuals responsible for planning, authorising or executing the strikes would meet the standard for the imposition of UN sanctions.
The panel also found Houthi forces had indiscriminately shelled civilian-populated areas, especially in Taiz.
Is the UK complicit?
The UK supplies weapons to Saudi Arabia and has provided targeting training to its soldiers, prompting accusations by rights groups and opposition MPs of partial responsibility for civilian casualties in Yemen.
The government argues, with high court backing, that the supply of weapons to the Saudis does not breach UK arms export licence laws since, it says, there is no clear risk of a serious breach of humanitarian law by the Saudi coalition. Ministers deny that UK forces are advising the Saudis on specific targets, though they admit that, after a raid, British officers can give advice on future targeting policy.
UK sales of arms and military kit to Saudi Arabia hit £1.1bn in 2017
From 2008 to 2017, Saudi Arabia was the second biggest purchaser of French arms, with deals totaling more than 11 billion euros ($12.6 billion), French defense ministry data shows. In 2017 alone, licenses potentially worth 14.7 billion euros to Saudi were approved.
Between 2013 and 2017, Saudi Arabia was one of the biggest recipients of German arms, worth $1.2bn in total.
No Profit in Peace!
Theresa May claims selling arms to Saudi Arabia helps ‘keep people on the streets of Britain safe’
Theresa May has staunchly defended selling arms to Saudi Arabia despite the country facing accusations of war crimes, insisting close ties “keep people on the streets of Britain safe”.
Jeremy Corbyn called on the Prime Minister to halt those sales because of the “humanitarian devastation” caused by a Saudi-led coalition waging war against rebels in Yemen.
The Labour leader spoke out after the Parliamentary committee charged with scrutinising arms exports said it was likely that British weapons had been used to violate international law. The Saudis stand accused of bombing multiple international hospitals run by the charity Médecins Sans Frontières, as well as schools, wedding parties and food factories.
In the Commons, Mr Corbyn linked weapons sales to the ongoing refugee crisis, which he said should be Britain’s “number one concern and our number one humanitarian response”.
He added: “That is why I remain concerned that at the heart of this Government’s security strategy is apparently increased arms exports to the very part of the world that most immediately threatens our security. The British Government continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia that are being used to commit crimes against humanity in Yemen, as has been clearly detailed by the UN and other independent agencies.”
Jeremy Corbyn was right to be concerned and the results of profit before people can be clearly seen in the harrowing images of the children in Yemen.