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UK Minister Urges Saudi Arabia to Stop Blocking Yemen Aid

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Saudi Arabia has "no excuse" for blocking aid to Yemen, the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, said as she warned that "using starvation as a weapon" was a breach of humanitarian law.

UK minister Penny Mordaunt

The UK is set to provide an emergency £50m aid package to help feed millions of Yemeni people caught in what she called "the world's worst humanitarian crisis".

On a visit to Djibouti and Saudi Arabia, Mordaunt promised food vouchers for 3.4 million Yemenis for one month, 106,000 tons of grain, and fuel to keep hospitals running and pump clean water.

Yemen has been embroiled in a bloody war since 2014. In recent months, there has been an escalation in fighting and Mordaunt said restrictions on aid access threatened to push Yemen into a "catastrophic famine".

The Saudi-led coalition has imposed restrictions in an effort to prevent supplies into the country.

Speaking in Djibouti, from where UK aid is shipped to Yemen, 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."

Mordaunt told the Telegraph that the UK "fully appreciates" the security concerns of the Saudi-led coalition and supported the right to screen shipping to prevent military equipment reaching the Ansarullah militaries, but said there was no excuse for blocking ships that had been screened. "It is very clear that if you are using starvation as a weapon you are in breach of international humanitarian law," she said. "And what I have seen on my visit is that what is being held up is aid.

"I very much understand the importance of our relationship with Saudi Arabia. But we do not help that relationship by not speaking about the facts of the matter." If there were to be a breach of humanitarian law "that would put that relationship into difficulty", she said.

On the Saudi leg of her trip, Mordaunt met high-level political figures and made clear that the 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.

In Saudi Arabia last month, Theresa May reiterated the need to ensure full access across Yemen, as well as renewing calls for all sides to find a peaceful solution and emphasizing the importance of full humanitarian and commercial access through the port of Hodeida.

Mordaunt said: "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."

The UK is the second largest donor to the UN appeal and this new package of support will bring the total UK aid to Yemen to £205m for 2017-18, making the UK the third largest donor overall.

Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team