STAND UK’s Weekly News Briefs are compiled weekly by members of the STAND UK Education Task Force.
This week’s update focuses on South Sudan and Yemen. In South Sudan, a recent attack on humanitarians threatens the already limited aid deliverance. In Yemen, famine continues to escalate and civilians are targeted in coalition airstrikes.
According to UN reports, six aid workers from the NGO, Grassroots Empowerment and Development Organisation, and their driver were attacked and killed as they drove from the capital Juba to Pibor. This is the worst attack on aid workers since the beginning of the three-year civil war. Although the government was unwilling to place the blame for the attack, rebel fighters loyal to the Riek Mahcar, the former vice president, said “the government should be held accountable as the killings happened on its territory.” The severity of the attack means that further aid deliveries to alleviate the famine would be delayed and that agencies are only willing to deliver “mission critical” packages. As the famine worsens, more than 6,000 people a day are fleeing to neighbouring Uganda, which is more than the number of refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean, according to the Disasters Emergency Committee.
On Friday, the United Nations reported that almost a third of Yemen’s 22 provinces are on the brink of famine with up to 60% of the country at risk of going hungry as a result of the war. Bettina Luescher, a spokeswoman for the UN’s World Food Programme, stated: ‘We are deeply concerned that Yemen is on the brink of famine. Out of the 22 [provinces], seven are in emergency phase four, and that is one level before declaring a famine’. The WFP is presently providing food to nearly 7 million Yemenis a month. However, there has been difficulty in transporting food aid as fighting has centred on ports and has damaged infrastructure such as roads and bridges making access to more remote regions near-impossible.
In other news, there have been renewed concerns for the safety of refugees after 31 Somalian refugees were killed in the Yemeni port of Hobeidah. It is reported that an Apache helicopter launched the attack – typical of those used by Saudi and UAE forces in the region. Those on board held UN documents and are believed to have been in transit to Sudan. Whilst the Saudi-led coalition have denied responsibility both rebels and Saudi-backed government forces have targeted civilians. In the city itself, sixteen rebels were killed and a further 24 civilians injured in the latest coalition air strikes after an arms base and weapons depot was targeted. Hobeidah is a key target for coalition forces in this Saudi-Iranian proxy war as they attempt to cut off the main supply lines to the capital Sana’a and the northern highland power base of the Houthis.
In more political developments, a court in territory controlled by Houthi rebels has sentenced President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and six other officials in absentia to death for ‘high treason’. It is believed this will further sour dealings at the stalling peace talks of which several have already failed.
James Dane is part of the STAND UK’s Policy Taskforce and his area of expertise is South Sudan. He is an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge where he studies Human, Social and Political Sciences with a focus on the fields of Politics and International Relations.
Jamila Phillips is part of the STAND UK’s Education Taskforce and her area of expertise is Yemen. She is an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge.