Yemen on ‘brink of famine’, UK foreign secretary warns

Britain has announced additional aid to the war-torn country, taking its contribution to more than £1bn

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaks during a news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the State Department in Washington, U.S., September 16, 2020. Nicholas Kamm/Pool via REUTERS
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The humanitarian situation in Yemen is rapidly deteriorating and the country is on the brink of mass starvation, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab warned on Thursday.

Mr Raab made the comments on an official visit to the US before the UN General Assembly next week, at a special meeting convened by Britain, Germany, Kuwait and Sweden.

Yemen has been mired in violence since 2014 when the Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, pushed the internationally recognised government out of Sanaa.

Mr Raab urged them to co-operate with Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy to Yemen, and support his proposals to immediately restart peace talks.

He announced another £5.8 million (Dh27.5m) of new UK aid to help avert a famine in Yemen, taking the UK’s total contribution since the conflict began to over £1 billion.

“The humanitarian situation in Yemen is now the worst it has ever been and, compounded with the threat of coronavirus, the country has never looked more likely to slide into famine,” Mr Raab said.

“Unless donors urgently act now and follow through on their pledges, hundreds of thousands of people are at risk of dying simply from starvation.

“We also need to see unwavering support for special envoy Martin Griffiths’s plans to secure a ceasefire that ends the suffering.”

He warned of the threat posed by the Safer  oil tanker, which is rusting in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen with 1.14 million barrels of oil on board.

Britain has called for a UN Security Council session on the damaged ship, which is in danger of leaking.

Mr Raab urged the Houthi rebels to allow UN experts to carry out essential work to prevent a disaster.

Mr Raab, who leads the UK’s new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, appointed Britain’s first special envoy for famine prevention and humanitarian affairs when he opened the newly merged department this month.

The envoy, Nick Dyer, said that there was “no plan B” for Yemen.

“The war-torn country is facing an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe, with hundreds of thousands at risk, unless world leaders take urgent action now,” Mr Dyer said.