A SCOT fighting to provide aid to war-torn Yemen yesterday said the world is turning a blind eye to one of the worst humanitarian disasters he has ever seen.
Jamie McGoldrick, the United Nation’s coordinator for one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, described how parents are being forced to choose which of their children will starve as civil war continues to kill thousands of people.
Around 14million people don’t have enough food and years of conflict has left the country’s economic system and infrastructure in tatters.
Jamie, from Glasgow’s east end, told the Daily Record of the heartbreaking scenes he and his team have witnessed.
He said: “Families who have been displaced are living in very fragile camps on the sides of roads in dusty planes.
“You go inside a makeshift tent and there is a mother there on her own with four or five kids all under the age of eight and she isn’t able to feed them.
“No matter what we bring her, we can’t feed them forever. At some point, those kids will die, slowly but surely, and she has to make a choice of who she feeds over or above the other ones, because she can’t get enough for them.
“It says on the death certificate pneumonia or they died of respiratory infection, but they didn’t – it’s because of malnutrition. You can’t record malnutrition and no one knows the numbers that have died.”
Nearly two years of war between a Saudi-led Arab coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi movement has brought Yemen to its knees.
In March last year, Houthi rebels took over the capital Sanaa. This sparked the coalition of Middle Eastern states to start a bombing campaign at the request of the legitimate President.
More than 10,000 people have been killed and nearly 37,000 wounded in the conflict.
Even before the start of the war two years ago, Yemen had suffered decades of hunger and poverty.
Jamie, 60, who started working for the UN more than 20 years ago and has seen suffering in places including Somalia and Liberia, said food and aid is being kept from Yemen by blockades.
Imports, which used to form 90 per cent of the country’s basic rescources, are no longer coming in.
Jamie added: “Politically, Yemen is very unstable and economically it has always relied on trades.
Skin and bone: Starved boy in Yemen hospital (Photo: Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters)
“The economy has collapsed, the banking system doesn’t work, imports which fed the country don’t exist.
“The shipping coming in is controlled by the Saudi-led coalition and it’s much harder for companies to buy on the open market.
“Around 50 per cent of the hospitals don’t function and those that do work aren’t providing a full range services.
“The cancer centre in Sanaa has closed, there are no drugs available and dialysis has collapsed.
“There are two premature babies per incubator and they are being born lighter than ever before because of the stress on the mothers.
Theresa May with Gulf leaders in Bahrain yesterday (Photo: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
“There are no jobs and the civil service has collapsed.
“The airport in Sanaa is closed, so there are no flights in and out of the northern part of the country. People can’t even escape.”
Aid is desperately needed but Jamie said there has to be political recognition of what is happening in Yemen.
As Prime Minister Theresa May met Arab leaders in the Gulf yesterday, Jamie added: “Yemen is a terrible tragedy that seems to have fallen off the radar screens because it’s not Iraq, Mosul, Syria, or Aleppo.
“The figures we have seen are only going to be exasperated in the next few months. Unless we can do something to fill that gap with food supplies or humanitarian resources, the numbers will only increase.
“From the crises I’ve seen, this one is different because it has been driven by political forces and the human dimension has been forgotten because it’s uncomfortable for people.
“Money is important but it’s not just about money. It’s the need for political commitment from member states to put this on the radar screen.
“The humanitarian consequences of political inaction on this one are unforgivable.”