On 30 March, airstrikes continued in Yemen. This came only five days after a promised ceasefire intended to help Yemen’s healthcare system prepare for the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. But with the whole world in crisis, it’s vital we don’t forget that the UK is still complicit in arming devastating and destructive attacks on Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has been leading a brutal assault on Yemen since 2015. The situation was recognised as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”. Although the whole world’s struggling to cope with the spread of coronavirus, the implications of cases in Yemen are even more worrying.
A press release from Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) explained that:
Yesterday saw air strikes in Yemen, this followed a day that includes violent attacks on both sides of the ongoing war. The attacks came only five days after reports that a ceasefire had been agreed to allow Yemen’s healthcare system to respond to the imminent threat of coronavirus
Over recent weeks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has increased distribution of protective gear and test equipment to the country in anticipation of an “explosion” of coronavirus cases. At present, there are no cases in Yemen, but it has reached Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE and other countries in the region.
A “decimated” healthcare system
The report explains that the conflict has left Yemen’s infrastructure “in tatters”. It also warns that Yemen’s healthcare system, even before coronavirus, had “almost collapsed”. It notes that:
One of the more distinctive—and devastating—abuses of the conflict has been attacks on medical infrastructure and health workers. The warring parties have damaged or destroyed health facilities through airstrikes and shelling, depriving Yemeni civilians of desperately-needed medical services. Parties to the conflict have also occupied medical facilities, commandeered the provision of medical facility services to exclude large swathes of the population, and assaulted medical professionals, among other abuses. Together, these actions violate standards firmly rooted in international humanitarian law and international human rights law to protect health facilities, health workers, and patients during conflict.
of the possibility of another outbreak of cholera. Since the war began five years ago there have already been 2.3 million suspected cases.
In addition to this, ongoing “destruction has left the system operating at 50 percent of its capacity at a time when 24 million people need aid”. CAAT’s Andrew Smith said coronavirus in Yemen puts “even greater strain” on a healthcare system that’s already “stretched to breaking point”.
Complicit in death
As bombing continues, the UK’s fully complicit in escalating this crisis. According to CAAT, since 2015, “the UK has licensed £5.3 billion worth of arms to the Saudi regime” but:
In reality the figures are likely to be a great deal higher, with most bombs and missiles being licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system.
In June 2019, UK arms sales to the Saudi regime went on hold after the Court of Appeal ruled they were “irrational and therefore unlawful”. However, as CAAT noted, this didn’t “stop arms from being transferred under extant licences”. And the government still hasn’t “published a timeline” to end these sales.
Mwatana’s chair Radhya al-Mutawakel stressed that:
Those supplying weapons and other forms of support to the warring parties – be they in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Iran, or other states – prolong Yemen’s misery and are complicit in the pervasive abuses documented in [the Mwatana] report.
Yet even while profiting from arms deals, the US is reportedly cutting humanitarian aid to Yemen:
US also cutting $73m in humanitarian aid to Yemen, under Saudi-US attack for 5 years: "the cut could prove disastrous ahead of what many fear will be a crippling coronavirus outbreak in a country already the scene of world’s worst humanitarian crisis." https://t.co/Dco15FPQyY
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) March 29, 2020
Smith said it’s “vital” to end “this devastating war”. He also called for the UK “and other arms dealing governments” to “finally stop arming and supporting this brutal bombardment and end the uncritical political and military support” given to Saudi Arabia.
Challenging as this crisis is for everyone, we don’t face daily bombing and still have a working healthcare system. As the pandemic continues, it’s vital not to forget people in Yemen. And we have to keep pressure on our government to stop profiting from death.
Featured image via Flickr – Felton Davis
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?