Letter to DFID: Break the fast over Yemen

The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP
Secretary of State for International Development
1 Palace Street
LONDON
SW1E 5HE October 2011

Break the fast over Yemen

We, Yemen Aid and other members of the British Yemeni community, invite you, your fellow Development ministers, and journalists to a traditional breakfast as a reminder to all that too many in Yemen are unable to eat more than one poor meal a day. We call on you to provide more, and actively to deliver the promised aid to feed the millions of hungry and displaced throughout Yemen. If you do not, we are worried that the Islamists will – with consequences we much fear.

The numbers of malnourished Yemenis are eye-watering: over 7 million Yemenis do not have enough food to eat. UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, is warning that in some parts of “Arabia Felix” malnutrition levels are as severe as in Somalia. Yet while international donors have pledged $38 billion for Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, aid to Yemen – the poorest country in the region – seems to have been suspended.

To its credit, the UK Government has announced £15m humanitarian assistance to Yemen, some of it to help feed malnourished children. But due to the “current political turmoil”, UK aid appears not to have been delivered – at just the moment that aid groups such as Oxfam report millions as being at risk. The UK co-chairs the Friends of Yemen group of countries and has encouraged much richer Gulf donors to give aid. Billions of dollars have been promised; few have arrived. At the last Friends of Yemen conference over a year ago, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that ‘Yemeni children face a future of starvation.’ That horrible future is upon them now.

In comparison to its limited aid to Yemen, the UK has given over £124 million to the Horn of Africa crisis; the Ministry of Defence reported that the military intervention in Libya had cost £260 million to June, while G8 Finance ministers at their September summit pledged to give $38bn (£25bn) in aid and loans to Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan. Most of these countries are suffering a far worse security situation than the “current political turmoil” which seems to prevent the UK Government delivering its aid to Yemenis. Yet Yemen Aid, the Big Society group which has organised this demonstration, has sent more than 40 tonnes of food, clothes and medicines to the displaced sheltering in schools in Aden. The Social Fund for Development and Social Welfare Fund continue to help hundreds of thousands of desperate people. UN agencies, international and local NGOs all continue to work effectively within their limited means, but they need our collective support. They need it now. I ask you to call a conference of international donors to address what the UN warn may be the next Somalia.

We ask the UK Government ‘to step up to the plate’, so that Yemeni children may enjoy the even meagre breakfast plate that you do now, and that they have some rations to eat, rather than their current fast: break the fast over Yemen; unlock the UK funding!

Safa Mubgar
UK Yemen Aid

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About safamubgar

A Londoner with an eye for the world, and a lazy passion for culture and books. Also a Springing Arab, of the Yemeni variety.
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