Yemen has historically been a fragile state, characterised by high population growth, food and water scarcity, female illiteracy and widespread poverty. Clearly the conflict has contributed to further suffering in Yemen, with extensive damage to infrastructure. Today, 22.1 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance.
Yemen is now on the brink of a catastrophic disaster. There is also a cholera outbreak which is escalating at an alarming rate, with the World Health Organisation estimating 5,000 new cases a day, the total number of suspected cholera cases has now surpassed half a million, and thousands of people have died.
The UK is playing a leading role in the humanitarian response and Ministers are also pressing the international community to step up its efforts. Our funding for Yemen was increased to £139 million for 2017/18, prioritising life-saving aid, including helping to provide food and nutrition support for 1.7 million people and clean water and sanitation for an expected 1.2 million people.
The UK's support will provide medical supplies, such as chlorine tablets and hygiene kits, for half a million people and rehabilitate medical facilities to help 250,000 people. Prevention is equally important, which is why UK efforts will also focus on helping people access safe, chlorinated water, to prevent further spread of the disease. UK aid is already saving lives. For example, our support to UNICEF has provided cholera treatment kits for 60,000 people and oral rehydration salts to treat over a million people.
The risk of cholera is highest when poverty, war or natural disasters force people to live in crowded conditions without adequate sanitation.
The UK Government continues to call on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to avoid any civilian casualties, particularly those of children, and to permit humanitarian access. Ultimately, a political solution is the best way to bring long-term stability. The UK is playing a leading role in diplomatic efforts, supporting the UN Special Envoy's efforts to achieve this.