UK aid agencies launch appeal for 7 million starving in Yemen

By ITV News Senior News Editor Paul Tyson

Warning: This article contains distressing images

A group of leading British aid organisations will come together on Tuesday to launch an appeal for Yemen where seven million people are on the brink of starvation after 20 months of a bitter civil war.

The Disasters Emergency Committee, whose members include Oxfam, the British Red Cross and Islamic Relief, believes conditions in Yemen are now so extreme that a massive coordinated aid effort is needed.

In peacetime Yemen imported ninety per cent of it's food, now after months of blockade and aerial bombardment half the population quite literally do not know where their next meal is coming from.

Basic medicines are scarce, disease is a growing threat and the UN aid effort is hugely underfunded.

Yemen, says the DEC, is at "breaking point".

In October, ITV News visited the village of Toheita on the Red Sea coast where families brought out their children to show us the effects of hunger on their tiny bodies.

Even children whose families could afford the journey to the nearest hospital were not safe.

Doctor Marwan Mohammed told us he lacked the basic medicines to help.

ITV News visited the village of Toheita in October. Credit: ITV News

In one of the malnutrition wards of Hodeidah Hospital he gestured around him at the pitiful scenes: "They’re going to die. Most of them we cannot do anything for them. They are going to die. It’s very sad."

At the weekend Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spoke of his "deep concern" for the people of Yemen but pledged continued support for the Saudi-led coalition who have been fighting Houthi rebels in a bitter campaign that has caused the collapse of Yemen's already fragile economy.

The Saudi campaign to restore Yemen's internationally recognised President has been dogged by accusations of human rights abuses, including an attack on a funeral hall in Sana'a that killed 140 mourners.

Smoke rises after an attack on a funeral hall in Sana'a. Credit: Reuters

The Saudi-led coalition has blockaded Yemen's Red Sea ports, searching all incoming vessels for weapons believed to be smuggled from Iran.

This has caused severe delays to aid and food shipments and raised prices for basic commodities beyond the means of most ordinary Yemenis.

Even when aid arrives it is difficult to deliver it to remote villages where it is most needed. The Saudi-led coalition have bombed bridges and roads hampering the efforts of the UN and aid agencies to help the thousands who are starving.

A malnourished boy lies on a bed at a hospital in Houdieda, Yemen. Credit: Reuters

A spokesman for Oxfam said: "The people of Yemen are facing one of the gravest humanitarian crises in the world, caught in the middle of a brutal war. Seven million people are a step away from famine and over two million children are acutely malnourished and require urgent care.

"Our common humanity tells us we cannot stand by and allow so many to suffer, to go hungry, to watch their loved ones die. we owe it to them, and to ourselves, to help as best we can."