LONDON: Yemenis and major charities have urged the British government to reconsider reported cuts of up to 50 percent of its support for humanitarian efforts in the war-torn country.
The plea comes as the UN is looking to raise some $3.85 billion from more than 100 governments and donors at a major virtual pledging conference on Monday to avert Yemen’s growing famine.
The British government has signaled that it is expected to cut its international aid budget as the country reckons with its biggest-ever recession amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The UK is expected to slash its current 0.7 percent of national income spending on foreign aid projects.
Former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell told the BBC on Monday that cutting aid to Yemen would be “very serious indeed,” and would lead to the “slow, agonizing and obscene process of starving to death” for millions.
A Yemeni aid worker told The Guardian newspaper: “It is hard to describe how heartbreaking the situation in Yemen is right now … Children are dying every day here. It is not a moral decision to abandon Yemen.”
The country’s civil war kicked off in 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi militias seized the capital, leading the internationally recognized government to flee to neighboring Saudi Arabia.
“We are beyond dismayed by reports that the government intends to cut aid to Yemen by a staggering 50 percent. To slash food and medicine to these children as they stand on the brink of famine and a second COVID-19 wave risks many thousands of deaths,” said Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children UK.
“This is one of the first illustrations of the devastating real-life consequences of the UK’s decision to abandon its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid, and we hope the government will urgently rethink this move in time to avoid tragic consequences for the world’s most vulnerable children.”