On Saturday, 27th October 2018, in the Railway Pub, Teddington, Paul Tippell, who is a volunteer working on the case for Yemen at UNA HQ, gave a talk to members of Twickenham and Richmond United Nations Association.
Paul began by saying that the Government of Saudi Arabia had established a total blockade on Yemen, meaning no food, no medical supplies and no fuel was getting through. There was a UNA website “Yemen can’t wait” which could be accessed by anyone interested in the tragic situation. A video on what the United Nations dubbed “The Worst Famine in a Hundred Years” was shown to those present.
The man-made famine means Yemen was heading further into the abyss. As the Saudi military repeatedly attacked the main port, Hudaydah, 14 million people were dying from lack of food. A child was dying every 5 minutes. 80% of the population was in need of assistance. 3.2 million people were displaced. Cholera was rife, due to the lack of clean water supplies and adequate sanitation resulting from the paucity of fuel. At the UN Security Council, the person in charge of Humanitarian Need had emphasised these points once again, knowing that the Saudi authorities had imposed a blockade from the start of the war five years before.
At the main port, Hudaydah, the repeated bombing had destroyed the 4 cranes used to unload goods and the 4 replacements provided by the UN had been unable to enter the country. The airport was out of action. The chief road to the capital, Sanaa, was impassable. There was no way for essential aid to get to where it is desperately needed. There was an air strike every 3 hours. One, a direct hit on a school bus, killed all 33 children on board, their ages ranging from 10 to 14.
Britain was complicit in the unacceptable actions of the Saudis, supplying £5 million in military equipment, including paper-weight bombs which were bought from Spain but made in Scotland. The UN had called the Saudi air strikes “a violation of human rights”. Paul said that Britain should suspend arms sales to act as leverage in an insistence that all air strikes are stopped, since the UN said they were the biggest killers of civilians. The Houthi rebels, the enemies Saudi Arabia were fighting, had undoubtedly committed horrible crimes, but they were not recipients of British arms sales. Sweden had put forward a resolution to stop the air strikes but it had been blocked in the UN Security Council.
A letter to the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary asking for arms sales to Saudi Arabia be suspended had been signed by 40 MPs initially, including Andrew Mitchell, and 35 more had added their signatures more recently. Paul Tippell had communicated with Sir Vince Cable’s Chief of Staff, and had also contacted Alison Thewlis. Paul suggested techniques to influence the UK government.