Today marks the six month anniversary of the start of the conflict in Yemen, which has affected the lives of 21million people, including 9.9million children. With the situation deteriorating every day, the world's biggest humanitarian crisis continues unabated.
Across the country, vital infrastructure like schools, health facilities, markets, banks and shops have been destroyed by both airstrikes and fighting on the ground. 80% of the population is reliant on aid, but there are serious challenges in importing humanitarian and commercial supplies into Yemen. Almost all airports and seaports are closed or not fully functioning, representing a de-facto blockade that is strangling the country. Six months in, what people fear most is not the bombs and the bullets but the threat of famine that hangs over the country.
Prior to the crisis, Yemen imported 90% of its food, and with the blockade preventing many goods from being entering the country, prices of staple foods, fuel and medicine are rising sharply. Hundreds of thousands of children are now at significant risk of dying of malnutrition-related causes. Health facilities supported by Save the Children are reporting a 150% increase in cases of severe acute malnutrition, while the World Food Programme is warning that the the unthinkable prospect of famine threatens to become a devastating reality.
During times of conflict, children suffer the most. As the biggest NGO operating in Yemen, Save the Children has reported serious risks facing children, including abuse, exploitation, violence and recruitment into armed groups. Unicef has reported that a third of fighters in Yemen are under the age of 18. Thousands of children have witnessed family members being killed and their homes destroyed. Following the airstrikes, children often show continuing signs of distress, often suffering from recurring nightmares. 70% of schools have closed since March.
The future of Yemen is hanging in the balance. As the vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Jordan, I had a chance to visit the Za'atari Syrian refugee camp in Jordan last year and saw first-hand the impact of war on children, including fractured families, disrupted education and destroyed life chances. It is heartbreaking to know that the same process is happening in Yemen.
The United Kingdom has a long and proud history of supporting development in Yemen and of providing aid to people caught in the conflict, but more needs to be done. The Government and the international community must apply more pressure on all parties involved in the conflict to allow unimpeded humanitarian aid and commercial goods access into and within the country by opening land, sea and air routes. Time is running out to stop a catastrophic loss of life - we must act now to ensure vital aid reaches those who desperately need it.
David Jones is the Conservative MP for Clwyd West