Harrogate Branch of the United Nations Association/UK met to discuss the unfolding disaster in Yemen. UNA member Ann Hodgson outlined the situation – potentially the worst humanitarian disaster for a century with 14 million people, half the population, on the brink of starvation, a huge refugee crisis and cholera rife. This was a situation only attracting low key media coverage. The two main protagonists are the Sunni Muslim elected government supported by Saudi Arabia, the powerful neighbour to the north, and the Houthis, allegedly supported by Shia Iran in what is seen by many as a proxy war between these two middle eastern powers but with conflicts even within the two sides. Infrastructure is largely destroyed and the economy, including agriculture, is at a standstill as a result of the conflict. Aid is not getting to its intended beneficiaries because of corruption and destruction by the Saudis of the main port, Hodeida.
Members recognised the extreme difficulty of influencing the situation in any way. The ultimate answer must be influencing hearts and minds and it was felt that this could be done best by trying to influence young people in the Middle East. They need help from the global community with this humanitarian task. The other area of action is to raise awareness in this country of the desperate situation by media publicity, social media, an on-line petition and recruiting the support of other UNA branches and the UK organisation.
The Saudi Arabian military is massively supported by the UK arms industry and members questioned the morality of supporting the Saudi regime.