A group of women with their children, between the tents in Al Malika displaced persons camp, Yemen. Image: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

It’s 5 years since all-out conflict broke out in Yemen. The situation the Yemeni people face is grave. And the crisis is made worse by the pandemic.

The UK Government is licensing arms to Saudi Arabia again. These weapons are being used on Yemeni people.

You have already pressured the UK Government to promote peace in Yemen. A crucial step that gave people hope. But more action is needed now.

The UK must stop fuelling the conflict in Yemen. Make sure your voice is heard.

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Here are 5 things you need to know about the conflict in Yemen so you can help push for change.

1. It’s a crisis on top of a crisis

Suad Hassan collects and carries water in a water container. Image: Pablo Tosco

“Whenever I feel sad or angry, my heart hurts me,” says Saud, who had to flee her home for another safer area of Yemen in the night.

We had to go out of our hometown by force because we were surrounded by armed men, so we had to move from town to town until we got here. We were so scared of armed men, scared from the shooting. Some people died, some were kidnapped, near to us.

The only thing that I cared about at the moment that I went out of my house to flee is my children’s safety”.

Now, Suad lives in a tent – in a camp for people forced to flee their homes – on the slopes of Al Malika in Yemen. There have been various clashes very close to the camp. These clashes prevented essential supplies from Oxfam getting through several times.

“It is good to be here with the organisation’s help, but nothing feels like being in your own hometown.” She says.

Suad Hassan in Al Malika refugee camp. Image: Pablo Tosco

• There are a predicted 1 million cases of coronavirus in Yemen
• 10 million people are already at risk of starvation
• Thousands of people could be dying from undetected cases of cholera because they are too afraid to leave their homes and visit the hospital when they fall ill

Oxfam is there with our partners on the ground, helping people to buy food, drink clean water, and avoid the spread of coronavirus, cholera and other diseases. But that isn’t enough – Yemeni people want peace. They must be able to rebuild their lives and live without the fear and devastation caused by war.

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2. It’s a man-made crisis

Rami Sulaiman with his wife in their shelter in Al-Mashkafa camp. Image: Pablo Tosco

War and now coronavirus have overwhelmed the country’s health facilities. Only half are currently functioning across the country. The broken health system is on its knees.

“My name is Rami*. I am from Taiz governate (Yemen). We fled here because of the war. I will return to my hometown even by walking. Planes were bombing, shells were falling over us, so we had to flee to here. My son was injured by the shrapnel, so we had to escape from these things. The shrapnel is still stuck in his hand. We could not give him the treatment yet,” says Rami, who also lives in a camp for people forced to flee their homes.

• Women, men and children living in Yemen have been in the crossfire of ongoing conflict
• Almost 4 million people have been forced from their homes because of the conflict
• More than 81,420 people have been displaced in the last 5 months

Rami Sulaiman washing in an improvised shower in Al-Mashkafa camp. Image: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

The people of Yemen are not starving, they are being starved.

Around a third of the population are near starvation. The price of the food that’s left is too high, leaving the poorest people suffering most.

“[We need] food for life and relief, anything that can help us. The most important thing is to have a full stomach,” says Suad.

Airstrikes and bombardment mean people are finding it harder to find clean water. Two-thirds of the population have no reliable access to clean water. This makes preventing the spread of disease almost impossible.

“The water point is quite far away. It takes two hours of walking. And at the water point, there is a crowd.
One group go to fetch water in the morning and they come back at lunchtime. The other group go in the noontime and come back in the evening during sleep time.
Our leader asked us to be organised and told us to ask for water in a polite way. If they humbly give us water, we take it. If not ‘just step back.’ says Suad.

The UN has warned 30,000 children could develop life-threatening malnutrition over the next 6 months. Meanwhile, the conflict has caused many people to lose their income. Bombs – some of which are UK-made – have destroyed food sources.

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3. Peace is on the horizon

• Fighting and bombardment continue – with more people caught in the middle – despite warring parties attending peace talks in Sweden over 18 months ago
• The UK keep sending weapons to the Saudi-led coalition despite the UN negotiating repeated ceasefire deals

The conflict will not be solved with military intervention. Arms exports are preventing peace.
Only a political solution will bring an end to the conflict.

It’s time the UK Government takes action to end this tragedy. And it is time parties return to peace talks.

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4. The UK is fuelling the conflict

The UK role in Yemen is puzzling. It donates millions in aid to Yemen and calls for peace. But it also sells arms to the Saudi-led coalition that continues to bomb Yemen’s hospitals, schools and markets.
This is a contradiction that has proved catastrophic for the Yemeni people.

• Last year the Court of Appeal ruled that UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful and must stop.
• The UK Government was granted permission to appeal, acting on the judgement the government launched a review process and stopped issuing new arms licenses to Saudi Arabia and coalition members.

After reviewing over 500 airstrikes by Saudi (or possibly coalition) forces, the government has decided there is no pattern of serious incidents and has dropped its appeal and and resumed licensing arms sales in July 2020. Despite evidence that vital infrastructure is being consistently hit by airstrikes.

We need your help to push the UK Government to fully respect international law. And protect Yemeni civilians.

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5. Change is possible

The UK Government admitted in Parliament in 2017 that protests were making it harder to sell bombs and planes to Saudi Arabia.

The UK government has the power to end this human tragedy.

They must:

• Reverse their decision to resume licensing arms and halt the sale of all arms to used in Yemen.
• Call for an immediate and nationwide ceasefire.
• Make sure peace talks are inclusive – involve Yemeni women, youth and others.
• Do everything possible to provide aid that gets through to the people who need it most.

Thank you to everyone who signed a petition and donated to Oxfam’s work in Yemen. For every social media like and share. For every conversation you’ve had with friends and family.

Together we’re standing with the people of Yemen.

Your action has led to:

• The UK Government contributing to efforts calling for all parties to the conflict to return to peace talks and stop a likely attack on the city of Hudaydah.
• A court case resulting in the Court of Appeal ruling that arms sales to Saudi Arabia are unlawful and ordered the government to stop issuing new licenses.

Let’s keep up the noise so that the government has no choice but to listen.

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The UK government as a ‘pen holder’ at the UN Security Council needs to do everything in it’s power to end the fighting. To create a window for peace. To make sure people already suffering 5 years of war – and now the pandemic – have the food, water and medicine they so desperately need.

* Hundreds of people fled their communities in the north of Yemen and sought refuge on this waste ground in Al-Mashkafa. Many families have been living here for more than four years. This camp is currently home to 140 families displaced by the conflict. Families live in shacks made from plastic tarpaulin. There is not enough water and with little or no access to basic services.

You can help provide assistance to people in Yemen and others in conflict-affected countries struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty by donating here.


Oxfam's coronavirus emergency response appeal

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