By Samuel Hauenstein Swan
“I came to listen and learn from you responding to the needs of mothers, fathers and their children in Yemen,” said Rory Stewart MP, UK Minister of State for International Development. This was back in January, Now that the United Nation has announced that there is a Famine looming in Yemen will the United Kondome act on what the minister heard. Priorities what is morally the right thing to do over economic gains from selling arms that are used in this war?
Nearly three hundred delegates participated in the civil society conference on Yemen organised by Action Against Hunger with six other NGOs delivering assistance to civilians affected by the conflict. Donor officials, government representatives, UN delegates and development practitioners, followed the call by Yemeni civil society and aid agencies working in Yemen, to urgently discuss humanitarian challenges and possible options for scaling up humanitarian response.Delegate urged officials to do everything in their power to stop the vicious campaign in Yemen that has cost tens of thousands of lives and left a country in ruins. With some of the biggest powers complicit in the tragedy by supporting armies on all sides. Support that comes with huge economic gains
Nearly three hundred delegates participated in the civil society conference on Yemen organised by Action Against Hunger with six other NGOs delivering assistance to civilians affected by the conflict. Donor officials, government representatives, UN delegates and development practitioners, followed the call by Yemeni civil society and aid agencies working in Yemen, to urgently discuss humanitarian challenges and possible options for scaling up humanitarian response.
Delegate urged politicians and officials to do everything in their power to stop the vicious campaign in Yemen that has cost tens of thousands of lives and left a country in ruins. With some of the biggest powers complicit in the tragedy by supporting armies on all sides. A support that comes with huge economic gains for wealthy nations and their arms industries.
The conference participants urged stakeholders to revert current tactics and instead invest in peace. Yet, even if negotiations progress it is likely that the crisis will continue. There was an urgent call therefore for donors to increase funding and address the overwhelming needs spelt out in the Humanitarian Response Plan. The conference heard from Yemeni local NGO partners how an aerial campaign has left much of the infrastructure in rubbles and created a climate of fear whereby civilians no longer dare to seek assistance in hospitals, public buildings or schools for fear of these being targeted. Food and economic activities have collapsed, the central bank has no cash to pay public sector workers, and parents have no means to care for their children.
The systematic embargo imposed and enforced by regional and global their global allies mainly the UK and the US, in a country greatly dependent on food imports, triggered high commodity prices resulting in a profound deterioration of the nutritional situation, and hundreds of thousands of lives are at risk. An estimated 1.5 million children have fallen ill with acute malnutrition – 370,000 of whom are suffering from its most severe form. One of the leading causes of civilian deaths in Yemen’s conflict are mothers and children dying due to lack of routine health and nutrition services and lack of safe drinking water.
In the midst of violence Action Against Hunger’s team on the ground has scaled up its programmes, reaching an increasing number of children with nutrition stabilisation centres in four governorates. Our teams are running mobile clinics in the worst affected areas where health post and hospitals have stopped functioning. We are not the only international organisation to do so; nonetheless what is clear to us and other aid agencies operating in these dangerous conditions is that there is a need to increase the humanitarian capacity and diplomatic commitment on the ground.
We heard and praised the courage of the Dutch and Swedish representatives to conduct official visits to Sana’a, the principal city in North Yemen. Civil Society invites more diplomatic dialogue to explain to regional and local leaders the humanitarian principals and reach a diplomatic consensus on the engagement of aid agency and aid delivery with Yemen’s leaders.
The only UK official visiting Yemen in years is Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP and former Secretary of State for International Development who shared his thoughts with the participants. He summarised what he saw with the following lines: “Yemen is not starving, Yemen is being starved”. He concluded by suggesting that the UK’s inconsistent policies towards Yemen could be transformed into a force for good: “The UK can play a leading role in finding political solutions to the conflict in Yemen and to address the humanitarian crisis.”
The conference concluded with four direct calls to actions:
The international community and in particular the United Kingdom should redouble its efforts to reinvigorate the peace process, stop fueling the conflict with arms sales and press for meaningful inclusion of civil society voices at all levels to ensure any deal reached is understood and supported especially inside Yemen.
Political will must be found and implemented at all levels to ease restrictions on the flow of goods into and around the country. The cranes for Hodeidah port should be allowed into the country, commercial airspace should be reopened, and approval processes for the movement of humanitarian goods and personnel should be streamlined.
The Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan needs to be fully funded. 2016 ended with an unacceptable shortfall of 40% of the needed resources. Funding needs to be flexible and responsive to the challenges of the ground and longer-term development needs.
Donors and governments should engage inside Yemen as well as with regional governments to increase their understanding of the realities of delivering humanitarian assistance but also allow them to build the relationships needed to apply diplomatic pressure in support of the humanitarian response and international humanitarian law.
The conference was a loud call to action. The many contributions throughout the day were a show of unity among humanitarian organisations and local civil society for donors and governments to raise their game and stand by the victims of this war.
Rory Stewart MP, UK Minister of State for International Development, asked to hear more about the challenges faced by the humanitarian sector and how UK Aid particular and the British Government as a whole could assist and inconsistent policies could be resolved. Conference participants spoke about the many innovative solutions that they are implementing and proposing. Rory Stewart said he will have the opportunity to bring the outcome of this meeting to his counterparts in Spring 2017 when donors and governments will meet to discuss Yemen and the looming Famine. Conference participants expressed their hope that besides a generous pledge and support for humanitarian action, the high-level Spring meeting will renew political will for a process to end one of the four most deadly conflicts worldwide.