The world’s worst humanitarian crisis is deteriorating as a Saudi blockade prevents desperately needed food, fuel and medicine from entering the country. London’s unstinting support for Riyadh makes the UK complicit
Twenty years ago, Tony Blair acknowledged the British government’s responsibility for the Irish famine that killed one million people: a healing gesture needed because, even after a century and a half, pain and anger endured and the responsibility of “those who governed in London” remained glaring. Now we are on the brink of another famine – perhaps the worst for decades, says a UN aid chief – and Britain must again bear blame. The UN called Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis even before Saudi Arabia decided to blockade the country a week and a half ago, shutting out food and medicine. Now the heads of three key agencies have warned that millions are on the brink of starvation. Unicef fears that 150,000 children could die by the end of the year. A cholera outbreak that has already affected 900,000 is expected to flare up again, as the lack of fuel shuts off water and sewage systems. Twenty million people, more than two-thirds of the population, are in urgent need of humanitarian supplies.
An impoverished country has been destroyed by what is both a civil and a proxy war. Houthi rebels, allied to Iran, drove out the internationally recognised president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, allying with his predecessor who had been ousted in the Arab spring. Since then, 10,000 lives have been lost, many to heavy bombing by the Saudi Arabian-led coalition, with arms and military support from the US, UK and others. The blockade has taken this terrible, futile conflict to a new depth. It seeks to starve a population into submission – a crime against humanity horrifically familiar from its ongoing use in Syria as well as elsewhere. Britain’s staunch support for Riyadh makes it complicit.