Yemen: Political and Humanitarian Situation

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 5th July 2017.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth 4:30 pm, 5th July 2017

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. Indeed, that message has been made clear to me in my conversations with organisations such as Oxfam, Save the Children, Médecins sans Frontières and many others in recent weeks and the past few days.

Unfortunately the crisis in the country is now even worse than we could have imagined a few months ago, with the disastrous failure in governance and the decimation of the Yemeni economy. The United Nations has estimated that it is only a matter of months before Yemen faces total and utter collapse. The sheer scale of the devastation is astounding. At least 18.8 million people, almost two thirds of the population, are in need of some kind of humanitarian aid or protection. Close to one third of the population are in acute need of assistance—that is 10.3 million people. Some 7 million people do not know where their next meal will come from or are at risk of famine. One child under five in Yemen dies every 10 minutes. Cholera has now spread to every part of the country, with more than 200,000 suspected cases and 1,300 deaths, according to Oxfam and other agencies.

The United Nations’ humanitarian chief, Sir Stephen O’Brien—a former Member of this House, known to many of us—described the situation in Yemen as a “man-made catastrophe”. I wholeheartedly agree with that, but I would go further. I am sorry to say that on the one hand the UK has delivered lifesaving aid through the Department for International Development, which I and my hon. Friend Stephen Twigg rightly praised in the last Parliament for its work in Yemen on the humanitarian crisis, but on the other hand the UK is responsible for a clear failure in our foreign policy and the moral approach we have taken to our arms export policy. No humanitarian response can adequately meet the increasing needs that the ongoing conflict is causing, and there needs to be an immediate cessation of hostilities by all sides.