This December marks 1,000 days of war in Yemen - a conflict that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
This time last year I visited the war-torn country to see for myself the incredible scale of human need and misery, and how the urgent needs of communities left devastated by war were being met.
What I noticed was the complete paralysis of the economy, the people and the essential movement of relief items and daily goods to market. I saw how the crisis was affecting people from all segments of society. Workers were in a state of limbo having received no salary for months and many formerly middle class families were living in desperate poverty. At this point, I saw the ominous sign that this is a unique crisis, moving towards a deadly downward spiral. Unfortunately, I since have been proven right.
Since the conflict began in 2015, there have been around 60,000 casualties and more than 8,000 people have lost their lives. Two years on, some 22 million people need urgent assistance and a staggering 8.4 million people – a population the size of Greater London – are at risk of famine.
Escalating violence and recent restrictions on the import and delivery of much-needed food, fuel and medicines, mean that local healthcare facilities are struggling to stay open. Many, in fact, lie in ruins.
Men, women and children are starving, and disease is rife. Quite frankly, across Yemen, things could not be any worse.
As one of the largest humanitarian aid charities working in 18 of the country’s 22 governorates, Islamic Relief staff and volunteers are delivering life-saving aid to those in need, helping to both change and crucially save lives.
I am proud of the vital work that we are doing to serve the local communities affected by the war. However, it’s a sombre thought to think that these communities are yet again facing another winter of conflict.
Even before the conflict began, Yemen was the poorest country in the Middle East. Now, the violence and obstruction of goods and services have ruined Yemen’s economy and left over three quarters of the population dependent on humanitarian aid.
Over the course of 2017, the complexities of the crisis have made it even harder for organisations such as Islamic Relief to get basic supplies where they are needed. Prior to the current blockade, it already took up to three months to transport vital medical supplies through the airport. Two years on, despite all our efforts, things are worse than they have ever been. Yemen is now at breaking point.
This is why, in addition to working to respond to the crisis on the ground, Islamic Relief is using the conflict’s 1,000-day anniversary to call on the UK Government to take action to bring the war to a peaceful end.
The UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council with influence over parties to the conflict. It is also one of the largest donors of humanitarian aid to Yemen.
We are therefore calling on the UK Government to use its unique position to lead political efforts to end this crisis by working to secure an immediate ceasefire and end the conflict. Reducing and removing restrictions on imports and re-opening Sana’a airport will ensure the free flow of goods and services and give civilians access to crucial life-saving aid.
We also ask the Government to lead on action at the UN Security Council, urging all parties to the conflict to engage in a new, inclusive peace process lead by Yemenis themselves.
The human cost of this conflict is a global tragedy. We must call for action. It is up to each and every one of us to raise our voice and declare that 1,000 days of war in Yemen is 1,000 days too many.
I urge all concerned people to write to your MP and ask for the conflict in Yemen to ensure that the UK government is doing all it can to bring a peaceful end to this horrific crisis.
Yemen simply cannot wait any longer. Click here to take action now.
You can also help save lives by donating to Islamic Relief UK’s Yemen Emergency Appeal.