Yemeni children are living in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. I see their suffering every day while working on the ground in Yemen. The only way to end this suffering is to end the war. It is therefore a shame if national parliaments keep giving the green light to continued sales of military equipment to the Saudi-led coalition.
Nearly four years since the brutal war in Yemen escalated, 14 million people are at risk of famine. That number has increased dramatically since the Saudi-led coalition imposed a blockade on Yemen in November 2017. We are horrified that as many as 85,000 children may have died because of extreme hunger since the war began. For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death—and it’s entirely preventable.
While western countries are providing aid to Yemen to alleviate human suffering with one hand, with the other they are selling weapons and equipment being used in this war to kill, maim and starve children. This is a double standard which keeps fueling this devastating conflict.
However, we’ve seen recent small steps in the right direction. Norway is among the countries that sells military and strategic material to Yemen’s warring parties, which have been used to bomb the country’s schools and hospitals. But its government announced in November that it would stop the authorization of new export licenses to Saudi Arabia, and its parliament continued to discuss the issue last week. The governments of Denmark, Finland, and Germany have also taken comparable steps.
But it’s not enough. Independent journalists recently traced the origin of weapons that ended up on Yemen’s battlefields—and the countries of origin include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, the UK, the US, and others.
The consultation in Sweden in December between the warring parties is a promising sign. We call on all countries that have influence on the parties to this war to increase the pressure on them to bring an end to this war. If they fail to do so, children’s lives will continue to be lost on a large scale and history will judge all those involved.
Now the warring parties must implement the steps agreed in Sweden, in line with international humanitarian law. The world will be watching. A ceasefire in Hodeidah, and the reopening of Sana’a airport to domestic flights, are important first steps to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen.
Fighting, blockades and bureaucracy have forced Save the Children to bring vital supplies for the the country’s north through the southern port of Aden. As a result, it can take up to three weeks for aid to reach those who urgently need it.
Our teams on the ground meet families bringing in their severely malnourished and unresponsive children to our health clinics, desperate to save them. There is nothing worse than watching a child die of starvation while food is prevented from entering the country and violence hinders its distribution. Malnourished children are succumbing to preventable diseases because life-saving medicines are delayed at ports and checkpoints.
Only an end to the war can bring lasting relief to the children of Yemen. But until then, the international community must continue to put pressure on all sides to urgently address the humanitarian crisis.
I urge the parliaments of arms dealing countries to take the historical responsibility and instruct their governments to stop all sales of military weapons or equipment to any party to the conflict in Yemen. It is the first step towards ensuring the children of Yemen have a future and to re-build, you must first stop destroying.