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21 Aug 2017 9:07
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  •   Home > News > International

    Yemen humanitarian crisis prompts calls for Saudi Arabia to allow more aid

    With malnutrition and the world's worst cholera outbreak making life even worse in war-torn Yemen, aid agencies are calling on governments to do more to help.

    There are urgent calls for Saudi Arabia to allow more aid into Yemen as children across the country continue to starve to death.

    According to the United Nations (UN), 2 million children in Yemen are currently suffering from acute malnutrition.

    Despite repeated UN warnings and ongoing pleas from aid agencies, aid to Yemen is still heavily restricted by the Saudi-led coalition that is blockading the war-torn country.

    Caroline Anning, a senior conflict and humanitarian advocacy adviser for Save The Children, said there were steps the coalition could take that would save lives tomorrow in Yemen.

    "If they reopened the main airport in [Yemen's capital] Sanaa to commercial traffic, that would massively ease the amount of goods coming in, put food on people's tables," Ms Anning said.

    "If they stopped blockading humanitarian goods coming in by ship that would make a big difference. If there was a temporary ceasefire that would make a huge difference."

    Ms Anning said countries like Australia needed to lobby Saudi Arabia to allow more food and aid into Yemen.

    "These are things that are within … the gift of the international community and our governments to do, and so we ask them, we plead [with] them to step up and do them," she said.

    At the malnutrition ward of al-Sabheen hospital in Sanaa, mothers wait for their emaciated babies and toddlers to receive urgent treatment.

    "He cannot stand on his feet or raise his head for long," Om Mujahed says sadly, sitting next to her desperately skinny son Mujahed.

    "He is so exhausted, so we brought him to here."

    Before the war began, Yemen was already the Middle East's poorest country, importing 90 per cent of its food.

    Now, after two years of relentless airstrikes and a blockade that has partially closed the country's main port and completely closed the main airport, there is just not enough food to feed Yemen's 28 million people.

    "If we compare the situation of the hospital and the patients a year ago to now, we notice that the number of malnutrition cases is increasing," al-Sabheen hospital's Dr Najila told the ABC.

    To make matters worse, Yemen is now also gripped by the world's worst-ever cholera outbreak.

    Amnesty International accuses US, UK of covering for Saudis

    In February, the Australian Government gave $10 million in aid to Yemen, but NGOs say more help is desperately needed.

    "Governments around the world have pledged a bit more money, but still nowhere near enough," Ms Anning said.

    "And the reality is that this cholera is entirely a result of the conflict. It is man-made, as is the food crisis, as is the entire humanitarian crisis affecting Yemen.

    "It's a result of the war, and unless there's an end to the war and a ceasefire, this crisis isn't going to end."

    But there seems to be no sign of a ceasefire between the Saudi-led coalition and the opposition Houthi rebels.

    A coalition airstrike on a house in Saa'da province two days ago reportedly killed 12 civilians, including six children.

    Amnesty International said the US and the UK were giving Saudi Arabia diplomatic cover to continue the war.

    "They have received political support, logistical support, intelligence support and the provision of weaponry from the key allies the US and the UK," Amnesty International's James Lynch told the ABC.

    "Those states have actually increased the number of arms they export to Saudi Arabia during this conflict."

    Analysts are warning of the long-term consequences if the war in Yemen is allowed to continue.

    "The thing is, it is going to have ramifications for the region and the word," Sanaa-based political analyst Hisham al-Omeisy said.

    "You have increased radicalism across Yemen, poverty, people crossing the border.

    "Of course you have seen what happened in Iraq and what happened in Syria. You will have a similar scenario here in Yemen, but it will be on steroids, and by then it will be too late to save Yemen."

    The Saudi embassy in Canberra said the kingdom has been the largest provider of aid to the people of Yemen.

    Since May 2015, Saudi Arabia supported Yemen with more than $10 billion.

    © 2017 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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