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Almost Half of Brits Have No Idea This 'Forgotten War' Exists


Why Global Citizens Should Care
The UN’s Global Goals call for peace, justice, and strong institutions, as well as an end to violence everywhere. Conflict directly impacts on the mission to end extreme poverty, causing massive instability, displacement, hunger, lack of access to education and health care, among many other things. Join us by taking action here to support people around the world living in conflict zones. 

A conflict has been devastating Yemen for over three-and-a-half years. More than 10,000 people have died in violence and airstrikes that have hit hospitals, schools, and essential infrastructure. 

Meanwhile, over 3 million people have had to leave their homes, and over 8 million people are dependent on humanitarian food aid to survive. 

It’s been described by the UN as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis," with three-quarters of the population now needing humanitarian assistance and protection. 

Take Action: Ask World Leaders to Support Children Affected by Conflict and Crisis by Ensuring Safe Schools

But just 58% of British people know that Yemen is a war zone, according to a new YouGov poll. 

MP Keith Vaz, chair of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on Yemen, has referred to the conflict in Yemen as a “forgotten war.” 

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“It’s very disturbing that despite everything that has happened there, interest is declining while the situation is getting worse,” the minister told the Independent

“The UK is involved but it is a blind spot,” he added. “Somehow we need to make the public realise there will be blood on the administration’s hands.” 

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For the YouGov survey, Britons were asked: “Which, if any, of the following countries are currently, or have recently, been involved in ongoing armed conflict?” 

The recent killing of journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul has renewed international interest in the conflict once again — putting the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia under intense scrutiny in the House of Commons this week. 

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, for one, will be questioned by the foreign affairs select committee on Wednesday for the first time, reported the Guardian.

But the poll’s results raise the question, how can interest be sustained in ending conflicts without public pressure — when famine, airstrikes, and cholera outbreaks aren’t enough? 

Dr Mekkia Mahdi told the New York Times that people in Yemen can’t understand the media interest in the Khashoggi case, over the other issues that the country is facing. 

“We’re surprised the Khashoggi case is getting so much attention while millions of Yemeni children are suffering,” she said. “Nobody gives a damn about them.”

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The civil war is being fought between Houthi rebels and supporters of the country’s internationally-recognised government, according to Al Jazeera. The Houthis took control of Sanaa, the capital city, in September 2014 and, in response, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign to restore Yemen’s government.

Meanwhile, the US has launched airstrikes on al-Qaeda and ISIS targets in Yemen; while the US, and others like the UK and France, have also supplied the Saudi-led coalition with arms.

Since the war began, the UK has licensed almost £5 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia — including £2.7 billion worth of aircraft, helicopters, and drones; £1.9 billion of grenades, bombs, and missiles; and £572,000 worth of tanks, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade figures. 

“The UK’s post-Brexit future has to aspire to better than exporting weapons and war,” said Andrew Smith, spokesperson for CAAT. “These arms sales could have devastating consequences for years to come.” 

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Another YouGov poll from September showed that just 13% of the British public supports the sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia, while 63% said they were opposed. 

The same poll also found that just 14% of British people believed the UK’s role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition reflects British values and interests, reported the Independent. 

Since 2015, Yemen has seen over 18,000 airstrikes — and a third of these are believed to have hit “non-military sites.” 

Médecins Sans Frontières, for example, tweeted last week that, since 2015, its health facilities have been “hit five times by coalition airstrikes. The latest was a cholera treatment centre in Abs, June 2018. These attacks killed 21 patients/staff & injured 33.) 

“The Saudi & Emirati-led coalition must stop bombing civilians and health facilities,” it tweeted. “According to @YemenData, more than 1/3 of all coalition air raids on Yemen have hit non-military sites since March 2015.”