The UN’s head of humanitarian affairs has described the ‘huge cut’ in UK aid to Yemen as a ‘quite shocking’ attempt to ‘balance the books on the backs of starving people’.
Mark Lowcock was reacting to the UK’s pledge of only £87m of aid compared to the pledge of £160m it made a year earlier – and the £214m it actually delivered in 2020 – 2021.
For several years now, the UN and humanitarian agencies have described Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Mark Lowcock said in February that there were already ‘pockets of famine’ in Yemen, and, unless there was generous funding, ‘what we’re going to see is the worst famine the world has seen for decades’.
Here in the UK, the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) contrasted the government’s cut in aid with its booming arms sales. Spokesperson Sarah Waldron said: ‘The UK bears direct responsibility for this unfolding catastrophe through its weapons supplies and unquestioning support for the Saudi-led coalition that has destroyed so much of Yemen’s infrastructure.’
According to the latest statistics, the UK has licensed at least £1.4bn worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it resumed arms sales in July 2020. In total, the UK has licensed at least £6.8bn since the start of the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen. CAAT adds: ‘The real level of exports is much higher, with most weapons licensed via the opaque and secretive Open Licence system.’
The Biden administration suspended arms sales to Saudi Arabia at the end of January – but may allow ‘defensive’ weapons.
CAAT and its partner in Yemen, Mwatana for Human Rights, have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the American Friends Service Committee and Quaker Peace & Social Witness.