Three civilians are being killed every day in Yemen – that is one person every eight hours – despite agreements reached between the internationally recognised government and the Houthis at talks in Sweden just over three months ago.
In December last year the two parties to the conflict in Yemen agreed a ceasefire for the key port of Hudaydah, as well as a prisoner exchange, as the first steps towards negotiating peace in Yemen, after fighting escalated four years ago on 26th March 2015.
In the 11 weeks following the agreements, 231 civilians were killed across the country in airstrikes, shelling, by sniper or landmines. A third of those killed were in Hudaydah governorate, despite the ceasefire there.
Of those killed, 56 were children – a number that would fill two classrooms in the average Australian primary school.
Oxfam Australia Yemen campaigns lead Conor Costello said the Australian Government has provided $23 million of aid to the humanitarian effort in Yemen since April 2017. However, media reports in late February confirmed the Australian Government has also provided $36 million to a Canberra weapons manufacturer to support the development of a system that has been sold to Saudi Arabia – which is accused of committing war crimes against civilians in Yemen – potentially fuelling the war while Yemenis starve.
“Oxfam Australia is demanding a halt to Australian arms exports to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other parties to the Yemen conflict,” Ms Costello said. “The humanitarian organisation is also calling on the Australian Government to commit further assistance, in line with significant scale of need, for the ongoing emergency response, especially multi-year funding, and to continue to use diplomatic channels to support efforts to establish a genuinely inclusive peace process.”
In the wake of UN sponsored talks in Sweden, the civilian death toll – which the UN reported was as high as 100 a week killed or injured in 2018 – has dropped, but it remains unacceptably high following the ceasefire.
Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director said: “Every day that passes without concrete progress towards peace, more Yemenis lose their lives and the suffering deepens for those struggling to find food and shelter amid the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
“The backers of the warring parties are complicit in this man-made crisis; we call on them to stop arming the belligerents. They and the rest of the international community need to do all they can to help bring about a lasting peace in Yemen.”
Aside from fatalities, the war continues to take a toll on civilians in other ways. Millions of Yemenis are on the brink of famine due to the withering economy and the closure of key ports to vital food supplies. Oxfam recently met a family forced to make the difficult choice to marry off their very young daughter so her parents could use the money to buy food and shelter for other family members.
“Governments that continue to sell arms to any party to the conflict are prolonging and deepening the suffering of millions of Yemenis,” Mr Siddiquey said.
“The fighting needs to stop and the governments allowing arms sales for use in Yemen should instead focus their efforts on securing peace.”