Europeans forgetting about Yemen famine because they don't feel it affects them, NGO director warns

Exclusive: 'The war is still going on. The bombing is still going on. I expect the situation to deteriorate'

Samuel Osborne
Friday 07 April 2017 09:59 BST
As many as 460,000 children face severe malnutrition in Yemen and 70 per cent of the population struggle to feed themselves
As many as 460,000 children face severe malnutrition in Yemen and 70 per cent of the population struggle to feed themselves (REUTERS/Naif Rahma)

Europeans have forgotten about the growing humanitarian crisis in Yemen because they don’t feel like the conflict affects them, an NGO director working in the country has told The Independent.

Giorgio Trombatore, Yemen country director for the International Medical Corps, said the famine fails to get the same attention as the armed conflicts across the Middle East, particularly Syria.

"I think one of the reasons might be the fact people are not directly reaching European seashores," Mr Trombatore said. "It seems more disconnected from what is happening in Europe.

"Half the country is now suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition, and this is something that could have been prevented."

The child victims of Yemen’s civil war

A recent YouGov poll found only 49 per cent of the British public knew of Yemen's ongoing civil war, a figure that was even lower in the 18 to 24 age group, where only 37 per cent were aware of the conflict.

Mr Trombatore told The Independent the famine situation is getting worse and there is currently little hope for improvement.

"I expect the situation to deteriorate more," Mr Trombatore he said. "People here are coping with massive problems.

"The war is still ongoing. The bombing is still going on. There's a shortage of food and medication."

The International Medical Corps warned as many as 460,000 children face severe malnutrition in Yemen, the Arab world's poorest nation which has been engulfed in three years of civil war.

Overall, 14.1 million people are food insecure while seven million people are considered severely food insecure.

Mr Trombatore described seeing people waiting near restaurants to ask if they could eat the scraps from diners plates.

"You can see these people are even dressed well, they never did this before. They are simply hungry and are probably displaced people," he said. "They are not beggars. They are not people who usually live like this. They are the result of the war."

He also said he had visited hospitals where he was shown malnourished children and adults, which he described as "very painful to see."

"The situation will definitely deteriorate because there are no signs for improvement," he added. "No signs for improvement at all."

Children at a camp for displaced people in Dharawan in Yemen (Reuters)

He urged people to help, either through raising money or pressuring the Saudi-led coalition to allow increased access for first aid, drugs or medicine.

The Saudi-led coalition has imposed an air and naval blockade on Yemen, imposing strict restrictions on what can and cannot be brought into the country and causing delays to aid deliveries, the UN has said.

Mr Trombatore added: "As long as this is brought up to any international level, these kind of things make pressure. So as long as people are silent and no one is talking about it, the crime continues."

The UK is the fourth largest aid donor to Yemen, committing £103m in humanitarian aid in the last year.

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