'We are besieged by hunger': Footage shows extent of child malnutrition in Yemen as Britain continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia

The government’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia is being heavily criticised due to the Gulf state’s actions in Yemen

Charlie Atkin
Friday 16 September 2016 16:29 BST
Footage shows extent of child malnutrition in Yemen as Britain continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia

At the only central hospital in the city of Hodeidah, emaciated children wearing nothing but diapers twice their size cry tearlessly.

Five-year-old Salem sits on a hospital bed, in a crowded ward surrounded by nearly a dozen other children, who like him, bear the signs of prolonged hunger.

His emaciated frame can’t sustain much movement. His mouth and eyes dry due to the severity of his malnutrition, he licks his lips repeatedly.

After recovering from a previous bout of malnutrition, his mother says he recently relapsed again. He’s been back in the hospital for over a week. She’s not sure of what to do next.

"From the day I gave birth to my child till now we are suffering from hunger and torture and his condition is not stable. He got better for a short period of time and then he relapsed again and we don’t have anyone and no one is standing with us,” says Salem’s mother Adeed Mohamed.

The on-going war in Yemen has made what was already a difficult task for Salem’s family of providing for him a near impossible one.

As the war continues between Houthis and allied forces against the Saudi-led coalition, there have been calls for the British government to cease its arm sales to Saudi Arabia.

Jeremy Corbyn recently criticised the government for selling “arms to Saudi Arabia that are being used to commit crimes against humanity in Yemen, as has been clearly detailed by the UN and other independent agencies.”

Theresa May claims selling arms to Saudi Arabia helps 'keep people on the streets of Britain safe'

In response to the Labour leader’s words, Theresa May insisted that Britain’s relationship with the Gulf state “has helped to keep people on the streets of Britain safe.”

Meanwhile, the Committee on Arms Export Control continues to disagree about the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and what course of action to recommend.

Even before the war in Yemen broke out in March last year, the Red Sea port of Hodeidah was one of the poorest cities in the Arab world’s most impoverished nation.

With the start of the war, a Saudi-led coalition of nine countries bombed wooden boats suspected of smuggling weapons to rival Shiite rebels, in control of the capital.

Along with the boats, the airstrikes struck storage areas for fish, markets, bridges, and roads leaving many jobless in an isolated city, helpless to provide for their families in the face of insanely high prices and a fuel shortage.

Caught in the conflict, an estimated 100,000 children of Hodeidah are at risk of severe malnutrition, according to the UN.

Father of eight, Ali Hassan Tanmina, says residents are being ‘beseiged’.

"We are besieged by hunger, and besieged by airstrikes which are happening morning and night, and when we go to look for a bite of our daily bread in the sea we are not allowed to."

Additional reporting by AP

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