A girl in Yemen collecting water from Action Against Hunger's WASH programme in Al-Hali.

Pressure mounts on Government to take action in Yemen

Humanitarian agencies call on UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to make a public statement that the UK will not support any party that attacks Hodeidah.

By Action Against Hunger News

Jul 20 2018

The recent military assault by the Saudi and Emirati led coalition on the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah has led to the displacement of an estimated 250,000 people and 75% of the population are now in need of humanitarian assistance.

On Thursday 19 July, a group of humanitarian agencies, including Action Against Hunger, wrote to UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, calling for him to make a clear public statement that the UK cannot continue to support any party that attacks Hodeidah, and that all parties will be held accountable for any violations against civilians. All parties must engage with the peace process lead by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths.

We also call on the Foreign Secretary to review the UK’s policy on Yemen, including reviewing support for the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition and suspending arms sales to any parties to the conflict while there is a risk they can be used to harm civilians in Yemen. This follows on from the joint statement co-signed by international aid groups in June.

Last month over 70 UK MPs wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May urging the UK Government to “use all available means to end this catastrophic military assault”.


Our joint letter to the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt


Dear Foreign Secretary,

We are writing to welcome you in your new role as Foreign Secretary and urge you to make the crisis in Yemen your immediate priority. We welcome the regular engagement we have had with your officials and ministerial team and hope we can continue to work together constructively to address the deteriorating situation.

Already the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, Yemen is on a knife-edge, as the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths urgently attempts to broker a political solution in the face of the ongoing threat of attack on the lifeline port of Hodeidah. Meaningful action from the UK on Yemen at this stage would not only have an immediate impact to save countless lives, it would have long-term benefits at the local, regional and global levels. This would also demonstrate the Government’s strong commitment to the international order and the values the UK champions globally.

Last month, eleven leading humanitarian agencies wrote to your predecessor to express alarm at the deteriorating crisis in Yemen and urge the UK government to do more to press the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to ensure that the port city of Hodeidah is not attacked. Over 70 cross-party MPs have also now signed a letter urging the Prime Minister to use "all available means to end this catastrophic military assault", including removing material support from combatants and calling on her to make a statement condemning an attack.

Despite the welcome efforts of the UK to discourage an attack through private diplomatic channels, and those of UN Special Envoy to negotiate a peace agreement, we are very concerned that the current reported pause in the Hodeidah assault could end at any time. This would result in an immediate and rapid deterioration in the humanitarian situation. The situation is already desperate with over 75% of the population requiring humanitarian aid just to survive. It is estimated that up to a quarter of a million people have already been displaced from Hodeidah governorate since 1 June. A further assault risks an even greater humanitarian catastrophe, in which hundreds of thousands more Yemenis will be at risk of entrapment, displacement, disease, worsening food insecurity, including possible famine, and death.

We agree with the Government’s position that it is vital to maintain humanitarian and commercial access to the port of Hodeidah. Given the continued imminence of the threat, we appeal to you to make a clear public statement that the UK cannot continue to support any party that attacks the port of Hodeidah, and that all parties will be held accountable for any violations against civilians. We urge the UK to redouble its efforts, bilaterally and at the UN Security Council, to push all parties to engage with the UN Special Envoy’s peace process.

We recognise the security concerns of Yemen’s neighbours, but without a rapid shift in course the country faces a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. The UK, as a key ally of the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition, has a vital role to play in steering the coalition away from a military solution, and preventing further escalation by working with all parties to the conflict to deliver a ceasefire and lasting peace deal. As such, we request you to review the UK’s policy on Yemen as a matter of urgency to secure these goals, including reviewing support for the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition and suspending arms sales to any parties to the conflict while there is a risk they can be used to harm civilians in Yemen.

We would welcome a meeting to discuss this further and we look forward to working with you to address the critical challenges in Yemen.

Yours sincerely,

1. Jean Michel Grand, Executive Director, Action Against Hunger UK
2. Laurie Lee, CEO, CARE International UK
3. Paul Valentin, International Director, Christian Aid
4. Sanjayan Srikanthan, Senior Vice President Europe & Executive Director, International Rescue Committee (IRC)
5. Naser Haghamed, Chief Executive, Islamic Relief Worldwide
6. Simon O'Connell, Executive Director, Mercy Corps Europe
7. Jan Egeland, Secretary General, Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
8. Mark Goldring, CEO, Oxfam GB
9. Kevin Watkins, CEO, Save the Children UK
10. Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director, UN Association UK (UNA-UK)

 


How to help

Yemen remains a volatile place to provide services, but Action Against Hunger is on the ground helping vulnerable communities. Learn more about our work in Yemen, or donate to our emergency appeal.

 

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Image Copyright: F. Seriex for Action Against Hunger