Yemen: Humanitarian and Political Situation - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:37 pm on 20th November 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 5:37 pm, 20th November 2017

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. Yemen now faces an intensified blockade. As he indicated, the UN estimates that 7 million are at risk of dying from starvation. As he has said, Yemen imports up to 90% of its daily needs, including fuel. The situation is therefore appalling. What is the upshot of the recent discussions, which the Minister mentioned, that Ministers have had with their Saudi counterparts regarding humanitarian access to Yemen’s population?

Criticism has been made of the UK because we assist with humanitarian help but also sell arms to Saudi Arabia. What discussions has the Foreign Secretary had with the Secretary of State for Defence regarding UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia?

What hopes does the Minister have for the efficacy of working with international partners to restart the peace process in Yemen, which again he mentioned? What recent assessment have the Government made of the need for an independent investigation of possible war crimes committed by both sides of the conflict in Yemen? In terms of the humanitarian situation, how will fuel shortages be immediately addressed? Is it recognised that this has an impact on the availability of drinkable water and that hospitals cannot be kept open without power? Does he note that refrigeration units for essential medicines are being turned off for periods of time to save fuel? What is being done to address the lack of medicines? Is he concerned that cholera and diphtheria are among some of the diseases that are currently spreading?

Does the Minister agree that food distribution systems are now under severe threat? Does he agree—it sounds as if he does—that the reopening of Aden port is simply not enough in this situation? Does he agree with those who say that what is happening amounts to collective punishment—holding a civilian population accountable? Does he agree that Saudi Arabia must lift or at least ease the blockade, and that if this does not happen we will see images of man-made famine within days?