(Ottawa) Three civilians are being killed every day in Yemen – that’s one person every eight hours – despite agreements reached between the internationally recognized government and the Houthis at talks in Sweden just over three months ago.
In December last year the two parties agreed a ceasefire for the key port of Hudaydah and a prisoner exchange as the first steps towards negotiating peace in Yemen. The war in Yemen began four years ago when Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes on March 26, 2015.
In the 11 weeks following the December 2018 agreements, 231 civilians were killed across the country in airstrikes, shelling, by sniper or landmines. A third of those killed were in Hudaydah governorate, despite the ceasefire there. 56 of those killed were children – a number that would fill two classrooms in the average Canadian primary school.
Canada has been a leader in providing lifesaving humanitarian assistance to Yemen but at the same time is arming one of the parties in the conflict – Saudi Arabia. As a champion of gender equality on the international stage, Canada has a moral responsibility to stop selling weapons that risk being used in a war that has particularly devastating consequences for women and children. Governments that sell arms to warring parties are complicit in the continuation of the conflict, the violations of international humanitarian law, and human rights violations against civilians.
To demonstrate the public’s support for an immediate end to the arms deal, Oxfam and other civil society organizations are launching an urgent campaign ahead of the anniversary of the conflict, asking the Government of Canada to cancel its arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
“All warring parties, including the Saudi-led coalition, have violated international humanitarian law,” said Brittany Lambert, Women’s Rights Policy & Advocacy Specialist at Oxfam Canada.
“No country should be directly or indirectly supplying weapons, munitions, military equipment or technology that could be used in the conflict until the violations stop. Warring parties on all sides bear responsibility for exacerbating the dire humanitarian situation. After 4 long years of suffering, we must all work together to bring Yemeni families peace – not more war.”
Aside from fatalities, the war continues to take a toll on civilians in other ways. Millions of Yemenis are on the brink of famine due to the withering economy and the closure of key ports to vital food supplies. There has been a 63 per cent increase in incidents of gender-based violence – including rape and sexual assault – since the conflict began in 2015. Oxfam recently met a family forced to make the difficult choice to marry off their three-year-old daughter so that her parents could use the money to buy food and shelter for other family members.
“Every day that passes without concrete progress towards peace, more Yemenis lose their lives and the suffering deepens for those struggling to find food and shelter amid the world’s worst humanitarian disaster,” Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director said.
“The backers of the warring parties are complicit in this crisis; we call on them to stop arming the belligerents. They and the rest of the international community need to do all they can to help bring about a lasting peace in Yemen.”
Notes to Editors:
- Oxfam is asking Canadians to email Minister Freeland to demand an immediate end to the arms deal with Saudi Arabia: https://www.oxfam.ca/armsdeal
- Oxfam is putting up posters with the hashtag #YemenCantWait in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal to raise awareness and solidarity around the anniversary of the conflict.
- Data on the number of civilian deaths has been provided by the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project and has not been verified.
- The CIMP data shows 231 civilians died between December 13, 2018, when the talks in Sweden concluded, and February 28, 2019, including 56 children and 43 women. 81 of these fatalities occurred in Hudaydah governorate.
- The destruction of water and sanitation infrastructure caused by airstrikes on civilian targets, mean that Yemeni women and girls have to travel further in dangerous settings to collect water.
- Hungry Yemeni families are resorting to desperate measures to feed themselves – including marrying off their young daughters.
- For more information on the three-year-old girl forced into early marriage, see Oxfam’s press release .