Press release

Penny Mordaunt: Extra UK aid to help stop “human tragedy” in Yemen and prevent risk of “catastrophic famine”

During a visit to a port in Djibouti, where UK aid is shipped to Yemen, Ms Mordaunt warns of the “human tragedy” of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt visits a port in Djibouti from where UK aid is shipped to Yemen. Picture: Benet Coulber/DFID
Secretary of State Penny Mordaunt visits a port in Djibouti from where UK aid is shipped to Yemen. Picture: Benet Coulber/DFID

The UK is providing urgent new food and fuel supplies to help keep millions of Yemeni people alive as an escalation in fighting and restrictions on aid access threaten to push Yemen into a catastrophic famine, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt announced today (Monday 18 December 2017).

During a visit to a port in Djibouti from where UK aid is shipped to Yemen, Ms Mordaunt warned of the “human tragedy” of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with over eleven million people needing help to survive. She pledged an extra £50 million that will help feed millions of people for one month and process more lifesaving food, which is absolutely vital as rapidly diminishing supplies mean there is currently only a few months of wheat and rice left in the country.

Ms Mordaunt also called for an immediate opening up of commercial and humanitarian access into Yemen during a visit to Saudi Arabia, and condemned the continued Houthi blockages in the north of the country.

Today’s announcement of UK aid support will help the World Food Programme to:

  • provide food and food vouchers for 3.4 million vulnerable Yemenis for one month – including malnourished children who are 20 times more likely to die than children who have enough to eat
  • mill over 106,000 metric tonnes of grain into wheat flour, which will feed 6.5 million people for two months
  • provide fuel to help make sure urgent food supplies can be delivered to those who need it most, keep hospitals running and pump clean water into major cities

Speaking in Djibouti, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt said:

The harrowing stories I have heard from Yemenis and aid workers today are a powerful reminder of the human tragedy of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis where three quarters of the population are in desperate need.

Every day, parents are carrying their malnourished children to hospital because they haven’t eaten in days, and families are watching as loved ones die needlessly from treatable illnesses because they do not have access to medical care.

UK aid will save lives with new food and fuel; fuel that will produce food, pump clean water to help stop the spread of cholera, and power hospital generators.

Our brave British, international and Yemeni aid workers are working relentlessly to alleviate suffering in these atrocious circumstances. But humanitarian aid alone is not enough and millions of people will starve to death without commercial imports that the country depends on.

That’s why the UK Government is calling on all parties to this conflict to immediately restore full access for humanitarian and commercial imports and find a peaceful solution to this conflict to stop Yemen falling into a catastrophic famine.

During her visit to Djibouti – a regional processing centre for humanitarian aid and commercial supplies into Yemen – Ms Mordaunt heard harrowing stories from Yemenis who have escaped the crisis and aid workers who have been delivering life-saving food, water and medical support.

Following this, Ms Mordaunt visited Saudi Arabia and met key high-level political figures where she made clear that commercial and humanitarian supplies – on which Yemen depends to meet 90% of basic needs – must be resumed and that immediate access must be granted to avert a catastrophic famine.

This builds on the Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia last month, where she reiterated the need to ensure full access across Yemen, renewed calls for all sides to find a peaceful solution and emphasised the importance of full humanitarian and commercial access through the port of Hodeida.

The UK is the second largest donor to the UN appeal and today’s new package of support will bring the total UK aid to Yemen to £205 million for 2017/18, making the UK the third largest donor overall.

This builds on the UK’s existing support, which this year is providing:

  • enough food for 1.8 million people for at least a month;
  • nutrition support for 1.7 million people; and
  • clean water and sanitation for 1.2 million people.

Notes to Editors

  1. Today’s announcement of £50 million of UK aid support for the Yemen crisis includes £40 million to the World Food Programme for food from DFID’s crisis reserve and allocations from DFID’s wider country budget, as well as £10 million for the World Food Programme for fuel for humanitarian purposes from re-allocations from DFID’s wider country budget.
  2. The United Nations launched Yemen’s Humanitarian Needs Overview for 2018 last week, confirming Yemen’s status as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The number of people in need of humanitarian or protection assistance now stands at an estimated 22.2 million people, including 2 million internally displaced people, and representing 76% of the entire population of Yemen.
  3. The number of people in need of immediate life-saving assistance is an estimated 11.3 million, with 17.8 million people food-insecure or malnourished, of whom 8.4 million are acutely so including 400,000 children. Yemen’s UN Humanitarian Appeal for 2018 will request $2.5 billion to meet the country’s humanitarian needs.

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Published 18 December 2017