Half the population of Yemen are currently at risk of starvation, as the country experiences what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Conflict broke out in the region in 2015, and it’s left civilians struggling to access food, medicine, and clean water and sanitation facilities — against a backdrop of airstrikes that have hit schools, hospitals, and markets.
In December, aid groups warned that mothers were being forced to choose which of their children to let starve, as a result of the “catastrophic” food shortage that has already resulted in the deaths of an estimated 85,000 children. In February, UNICEF warned that "we are losing a generation."
The UK has now announced that it’s again stepping up support to the region, with £200 million of new funding from the Department for International Development (DfID) announced on Sunday.
According to DfID, the funding will help feed 3.8 million of the most vulnerable people in the country, with cash and vouchers for food; it will be used to screen and treat 20,000 children for malnutrition; and it will give 2 million people better access to water supply and basic sanitation.
“Yemen is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” said Alistair Burt, minister for the Middle East. “Millions of people edge ever closer to famine every day that the conflict continues. Today’s UK aid package will feed millions of Yemenis who face constant uncertainty over when they will next eat.”
“But aid is not enough,” added Burt. “We are also doing all we can to support the UN-led peace process. The only way to end this crisis and the suffering of the Yemeni people is for both parties to agree a political settlement.”
The UK is continuing to put pressure on all parties involved in the conflict to implement the Stockholm agreements that enable progress on the political process, and to help open up supply routes in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, according to a government statement.
In total, since the start of the Yemen conflict, the UK has contributed £770 million to the country.
In the year 2018-9, for example, that funding is helping to alleviate suffering in the country through funding health initiatives; efforts to help people access enough food; and programmes to provide support women and girls who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence.
For health, the UK is covering 25% of the costs for the first-ever cholera vaccination campaign in Yemen — delivered by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance — that will reach nearly a million people. Last year, Yemen experienced one of the worst cholera outbreaks in the world, as a result of poor water and sanitation.
The UK government work on cholera in Yemen also includes bringing together the Met Office, NASA, and US scientists to use a “world-leading “ approach to accurately predict the spread of cholera and target the most at-risk areas.
UK aid funding is also helping provide medical support, legal services, and psycho-social counselling to over 1,700 survivors of sexual abuse and gender-based violence, according to DfID.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the UK hosted a side-event at the UN pledging conference in Geneva — bringing together leading donors and UN agencies in the international effort to make sure aid is reaching those people who need it most in Yemen.
The conference gathered the international community with the aim of raising more than $4 billion (£3.2 billion) for 2019, which is reportedly the largest sum sought for any one year since the war began four years ago. The pledging conference fell short of the $4 billion needed, instead raising $2.6 billion in total — with the largest donors being Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, both active participants in the ongoing conflict.