Yemen

Part of Parliamentary Sovereignty and EU Renegotiations – in the House of Commons at 4:09 pm on 4th February 2016.

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Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Conservative, Aldridge-Brownhills 4:09 pm, 4th February 2016

I thank colleagues in the Chamber for securing this important debate. As has been said, the conflict in Yemen has been described as the forgotten war. In recent weeks and months the conflict has escalated significantly and has begun to attract international attention.

In the time available, I shall focus on the humanitarian situation. It is a privilege to be a member of the International Development Committee. It is estimated that some 21 million people in Yemen—more than 80% of the population—are in need of life-saving assistance and protection. Recently at the IDC we heard evidence from a number of NGOs—Oxfam, Save the Children, UNICEF and the Yemeni diaspora. We heard about the difficulties in getting humanitarian aid into the country and into the areas where it is most needed. We heard that in Taiz people need food, water and medical supplies. They even need oxygen. Many civilians have been displaced and are forced to live on the edge of the city.

In these circumstances it is the children who are among the most vulnerable. It is estimated that more than 9 million children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. There are reports of grave violations against children and of schools being attacked or destroyed. The indirect consequences of conflict are often worse than the conflict itself, such as children falling ill who would not otherwise have fallen ill. It is vital that the UK continues to play its part in the humanitarian aid effort. I am always grateful to my hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues from DFID for taking the time to come to the Chamber, answer questions and update us on the dreadful situation in Yemen.

DFID has doubled its aid and recently the Secretary of State announced a further £10 million of aid. We must recognise the very difficult conditions in which DFID and FCO staff are working. One of the biggest challenges is getting that humanitarian aid to where it is most needed. It is therefore vital that the international community does all it can to secure safe humanitarian corridors so that aid relief can pass through unimpeded. Those who work tirelessly on the ground in those difficult circumstances have to manage and mitigate the risks on a day-to-day basis.

I shall touch briefly on defence and defence co-operation. Politically, the UK supports the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention. It is important that we remember that that came at the request of the legitimate President, President Hadi, to deter aggression by the Houthis and the forces loyal to the former President, and to allow the return of the legitimate Yemeni Government. Nevertheless, it is worrying to hear of air strikes on civilian targets. With all that is going on in Yemen, I urge the Government to continue to monitor the situation closely and to take seriously the allegations of violations of international humanitarian law.

With conflict in the wider middle east region—Syria, Iraq and Daesh—continuing to make the headlines, it is easy to see why Yemen’s has been described as the forgotten war. Let us hope that after today we can play a part in changing that. The situation in Yemen is different from that in Syria, but that does not make it less important. I urge the Government to continue to do all they can to secure a comprehensive and peaceful solution for Yemen, as that is the only way to bring about the long-term stability that the country, the wider region and the world want.