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Yemen Famine, People trapped and starving
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Yemen Famine, People trapped and starving

The World's Largest Humanitarian Crisis

After Saudi Arabia entered the Yemen War in March 2015 along with a coalition of Sunni Arab states, Yemen rapidly eclipsed Syria as the World's largest humanitarian crisis.

By January 2016, after 10 months of war, the UN reported that 1.3 million Yemeni children were acutely malnourished, that 14.4 million Yemenis were struggling to find enough food, and that 21.2 million Yemenis were in need of humanitarian assistance.

At the time, that compared to 12.2 million requiring assistance in Syria. By making such a comparison, I don't mean to downplay the suffering of the Syrian population. But whereas the Syrian crisis has been widely covered by western news media, Yemen's even greater crisis is largely forgotten and ignored.
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Now in 2017, after two and a half years of war, the Yemen Emergency is turning into the Yemen Famine.

The UN's OHCA page about Yemen portrays a grim picture. In 2017, Yemen has suffered the biggest-ever-recorded cholera epidemic (895,000 cases as of November), 17 million Yemenis are food insecure (60 percent of the population), and 2.9 million are internally displaced refugees. According to their Crisis Overview, 'about 4.5 million children and pregnant or lactating women are acutely malnourished, … a child under 5 dies in Yemen every 10 minutes from preventable causes,…and a staggering seven million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and are at risk of famine'.

Focussing not just on food insecurity but general needs for humanitarian assistance, they say, 'An alarming 20.7 million people in Yemen need some kind of humanitarian or protection support, with some 9.8 million in acute need of assistance'. The OHCA's humanitarian response plan requires funding of $2.3 Billion, of which only 56% has so far been pledged by donors.

A personal appeal by Hamish Erskine, a plumber in Exeter.

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Although I am now back in the UK and retrained as a plumber in 2011, I spent 14 years teaching mathematics in Yemen from 1995 until 2009. Yemen was a wild and wonderful place to live, with beautiful scenery, amazing architecture, and incredibly friendly and hospitable people. It is heartbreaking to see what has become of Yemen today.

It would be easy for me say, "I'm just a plumber, what can I do?" But when I started my plumbing business, I knew I needed a website, so I decided I would learn how to make one. Today, in creating this website, I hope that a skill I learned for my plumbing can make a difference for the country that so warmly hosted me for so many years.

Below I suggest three ways you can help. I'm not personally collecting any money, but giving to reputable UK Charities that have launched Yemen Crisis Appeals is certainly one way you can make a difference (see my Donate page).

BBC News: Yemen on the brink of starvation
21 September 2016
(Abridged version of BBC Our World's 'Starving Yemen' documentary)

Although the Yemen Crisis is significantly larger than that of Syria, Yemen's Crisis has received much less attention in western media. Over the last few years, Syrian refugees have flooded out of Syria into Europe, so their plight has been much more visible on western radar. Yemen, on the other hand, is a country besieged, with its population trapped. Land borders are closed, a Saudi Arabian naval blockade around its coastline blocks the exit of refugees and import of food or aid, and few Yemenis have the means to board one of the few remaining flights out of the country. So Yemen's 2.9 million refugees have mostly been displaced internally, rather than across international borders.

As the Middle East's poorest country, before the war Yemen imported 90% of its food, 70% of its fuel, and all its medical supplies. With its port facilities having been all but crippled by Saudi Arabian airstrikes, ships wait off its coastline for months at a time to unload their cargoes. The few remaining hospitals that haven't been bombed operate with only the most basic medical supplies. Lack of fuel, combined with the destruction of many roads and bridges, means that transportation of food and aid is severely hampered. For fresh water, most of Yemen relies entirely on water that is pumped from deep underground bore-holes. Without diesel for the pumps, there is no water to irrigate land for farming, and access to clean drinking water is severely limited. Food imports are all but cut-off. Fishing communities along its coastline cannot work as their boats have been repeatedly bombed by Saudi warplanes. Food prices have sky-rocketed, but with Yemen's economy devastated, much of the population is now unemployed. Salaries for government employees regularly go unpaid. Much of the population is starving, or nearly so.

It is our ally, Saudi Arabia, who has caused most of this devastation, and the UK is supporting it. In the first year since the start of the conflict on 26 March 2015, the UK licensed £3.3 billion of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including £1 billion of bombs and missiles, up from only £9 million the previous year. Saudi Arabia has devastated Yemen's infrastructure, leaving the population to starve to death.

In 2016, the UK government increased its annual aid to Yemen from £37 million to £85 million, but this is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the tens of billions of pounds worth of damage caused to its infrastructure by British and American made bombs supplied to Saudi Arabia.

UN estimates of about 10,000 people killed in the conflict greatly obscure the severity of the crisis. Hundreds of thousands, or even millions of Yemenis, are likely to die in the year ahead, either by war, famine, or disease.

It is the job of governments to use diplomatic pressure to bring an end to the war though a negotiated settlement. And it is the job of international aid agencies to mount a massive relief effort. But they need resources, which have to come from somewhere. All of us have a role to play. You can help save lives in Yemen.

DEC's Yemen Crisis Appeal - with donation matching by the UK Government

A step forward in the UK was the launch of the Yemen Crisis Appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC). DEC is a coalition of 13 UK Charities, receiving official backing from the UK government. At its launch in December 2016, the UK government pledged to match donations up to £5 million. Since then, donations to DEC have amounted to £24 million, including the £5 million from UK government aid.

Although I disagree with the UK Government's continued military support for Saudi Arabia in the Yemen Conflict, DEC's Yemen Crisis Appeal demonstrates the compassionate side of the British government.

DEC Appeal with Tom Hardy
13 December 2016

Ways you can help

Support the aid agencies that are working in Yemen
Spread awareness of the crisis among your friends
Write to your MP
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Designed and written by Hamish Erskine
© 2017 Hamish Erskine
Web design and marketing ideas: hamish.com
Plumbing: hamish-the-plumber.com
Email: info@yf.com
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