A recent appeal for a “Coronavirus Ceasefire” by the International Crisis Group (ICG) to the warring parties in Yemen brings to the fore the desperate situation of war-wary Yemenis who have endured repeated attacks on their limited health care facilities and other vital infrastructure, as well as an economic blockade. This has given rise to widespread hunger, cholera and deprivation that translates into some 24 of Yemen’s 28 million people being dependent on humanitarian action for everyday survival.
As noted by the ICG, an estimated 112,000 people “have died as a direct consequence of the war”, which involves a Saudi-led coalition benefitting from arms-trading nations and United Nations Security Council Members (UNSC), France, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America – opposed to Huthis backed by Iran.
The triple whammy of armed conflict, rising mortality and morbidity rates, and Covid-19 adds to the urgency of a ceasefire while there is still time to tackle the rapidly escalating global pandemic. This is also an opportunity for the UK, which has specific responsibilities for Yemen in the UNSC, to deliver on its arms export responsibilities as indicted by a British Court of Appeal decision (2019), which called on the government to properly assess “risks associated with weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.”
Photo caption & credit: a local administration worker fumigates a neighbourhood in Yemen’s Huthi rebel-held capital Sanaa (March 2020) ©Mohammed HUWAIS / AFP