The UK continues controversial arms sales as families in Yemen are on the brink of starvation

UK arms sale Saudi Arabia
Jasmine Norden

Nearly 40% of families in Yemen are living in debt to buy essentials, according to research by Oxfam, under the shadow of the ongoing civil war.

This comes as millions of Yemenis are reported to be living in food insecurity, a situation that the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) said could become famine very soon.

Meanwhile, the UK has come under renewed scrutiny for arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which is leading the coalition blockading Yemen.

Living ‘from one month to the next’

The research by Oxfam found that nearly two in five families in Yemen have to go into debt to buy food and medicine. Pharmacists and grocers estimate the number of people using debt to buy essentials has risen since the beginning of the war in 2015.

Layla Mansoor fled from active conflict three years ago with her family. She says they now usually owe “10,000 to 12,000 YER (USD $11-$15)” every month to the shops where they buy food. Mansoor said:

At the moment we’re living a nightmare. Thankfully, until now, we haven’t needed any kind of medical treatment – but I’m afraid that we won’t afford it, if one day we do.

The research found that many families use aid support to pay off debt and then accumulate more while waiting for aid payments, living permanently in arrears.

This comes directly after a large shortfall in aid payments to Yemen, as well as the UK’s decision to cut foreign aid.

Ibrahim Alwazir, one of the researchers, said:

To struggle this hard to be able to provide food and medicine for one’s family is an avoidable hardship that millions have to overcome on a daily basis. We need peace so no more Yemenis are forced to flee their homes and live in poverty. Peace will allow people to rebuild their lives and businesses, but we need support to help communities to do that.  This war has turned my country into the world’s largest humanitarian crisis and it’s only getting worse. We all just want to get back to normal life.

‘Continuing to fuel the war’

More than 8,000 civilians in Yemen have been killed by targeted air strikes, according to Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (Acled). These deaths have been caused by the Saudi Arabi-led coalition pursuing an air campaign against Yemen. The coalition’s blockade has also caused an increase in food and fuel prices that is responsible for widespread food insecurity.

Human rights and campaign groups have criticised the UK for its arms sales to Saudi Arabia, particularly after the US decided to review its arms deals.

According to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), the UK has licensed £1.4bn worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia since renewing sales in July.

Sarah Waldron of CAAT said:

These new figures are shocking and once again illustrate the UK government’s determination to keep supplying arms at any cost.

UK-made weapons have played a devastating role in the Saudi-led attacks on Yemen, and the humanitarian crisis they have created, yet the UK government has done everything it can to keep the arms sales flowing.

The arms sales are immoral, and we believe that the decision to renew them was illegal, which is why we have filed a case to challenge it.

Now even the US is curbing its arms sales, while the UK government is continuing to fuel the war. They must change course now and work to support meaningful peace.

Featured image via Flickr/Alisdare Hickson

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