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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

In January 2016, after 10 months of war in Yemen, 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. Comparing that to 12.2 million in Syria, it meant that even at the beginning of 2016, Yemen was the world's largest humanitarian crisis.
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Now in 2017, after nearly two years of war, the Yemen Emergency has turned into the Yemen Famine, especially in the coastal areas along the Red Sea.

According to the UN's report, published in November, the number of people who are acutely malnourished has risen from 1.3 million to 4 million. Overall, they now estimate that out of a total population of 27.4 million, 18.8 million need assistance. Although this total figure appears to be a reduction from 21 million, they attribute this to more accurate data collection, rather than an actual improvement. Of those, 10.3 million are in acute need. 8.8 million are in acute need of medical assistance, and 8.2 million suffer an acute shortage of fresh water. 3.9 million are in acute need of shelter and accommodation due to displacement or the destruction of their homes. You can download their report here.

At the beginning of a famine it is the children who are most vulnerable and die first. Yemeni children are dying each day of starvation. But all ages are suffering and at risk.

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)

The Yemen Famine has received some news coverage recently, but the focus of western media has mostly been on the Syrian Crisis. Syrian refugees have flooded out of Syria into Europe, so their plight has been closer to home for most of us than that of Yemen. 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.

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. Government employees have not received salaries since August. The population is starving.

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.

The UK government has 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. And that's not even counting the cost of human life and suffering.

The UN recently reported that the conflict has now killed over 10,000 people, but this statistic greatly obscures 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.

13 December - Launch of DEC's Yemen Crisis Appeal - with donation matching by the UK Government

A great step forward is the Yemen Crisis Appeal launch by the Disasters Emergency Committee. This is a coalition of 13 UK Charities, and the UK Government is currently matching all donations made via this appeal.

Although I disagree with the Government's continued military support for Saudi Arabia in the Yemen Conflict, this is certainly a welcome move, demonstrating 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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Your comments are invited below:
Designed and written by Hamish Erskine
© 2016 Hamish Erskine
Web design and marketing ideas: hamish.com
Plumbing: hamish-the-plumber.com
Email: info@yf.com
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