The UK has announced a £50 million aid package for Yemen, to help delay the “human tragedy of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis” for another month.
It will “save lives” with new food and fuel for millions of people — fuel that will produce food, help deliver food to those who need it, pump clean water to help stop the spread of cholera, and power hospital generators.
But humanitarian aid is only enough to stave off famine, and the UK government also reiterated calls to all parties in the conflict to “immediately restore full access for humanitarian and commercial imports” and to “find a peaceful solution.”
Without access for aid and imports, Yemen is facing being pushed into a “catastrophic famine,” warned the UK government and aid agencies.
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“Every day, parents are carrying their malnourished children to hospital because they haven’t eaten in days, and families are watching as loved ones die needlessly from treatable illnesses because they do not have access to medical care,” said international development secretary Penny Mordaunt in a statement.
Mordaunt announced the funding on Monday, during a visit to a port in Djibouti, the tiny African country that is hosting a large number of Yemeni refugees and is the launch pad for UK aid making its way to Yemen.
Two-thirds of Yemen’s population is currently reliant on humanitarian aid — more than 20 million people in total — after civil war erupted in the country in March 2015.
And food is rapidly running out, warned the UK’s Department for International Development, with only a few months’ worth of wheat and rice left in the country.
The new UK aid package will provide food vouchers and food for 3.4 million vulnerable Yemenis for a month, and mill over 106,000 metric tonnes of grain into wheat flour — enough to feed 6.5 million people for two months.
The conflict has so far killed more than 10,000 people — with aid agencies warning the actual figure is much higher — displaced more than 2 million people, and triggered a cholera epidemic that has infected about 1 million people.
Humanitarian efforts in Yemen have faced continuous obstruction from a Saudi Arabian-led coalition that has blocked major ports to prevent the alleged flow of weapons from Iran to its Houthi allies — a claim that Iran has denied.
But, as well as stopping potential weapons, the blockade has stopped food, medical supplies, clean water, and other supplies from reaching civilians.
Around 85% of Yemen’s food and medicine has to be imported, so the blockade, on top of violence, has proved to be disastrous, reported the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“Our brave British, international and Yemeni aid workers are working relentlessly to alleviate suffering in these atrocious circumstances,” added Mordaunt. “But humanitarian aid alone is not enough and millions of people will starve to death without commercial imports that the country depends on.”
Stephen Anderson, Yemen country director for the World Food Programme (WFP) told the Thomson Reuters Foundation last week that aid workers are “trying to help prevent a famine from occurring.”
“We will have a large-scale humanitarian catastrophe of a much larger magnitude than we currently face if commercial vessels carrying food and fuel can’t get in,” he said. “It will be beyond the control of the humanitarian community.”
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