Posts Tagged ‘MSF’


The Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, aims to ease the suffering of women in conflict areas.  Will action follow?

We have often posted items on this site concerning our support for, and arming of, the Saudi regime in its war in Yemen and the awful human toll that this has caused.  Thousands have died, cholera is at epidemic proportions and civil society has been catastrophically damaged.  A blockade is making matters worse.  The has been considerable evidence that UK arms have been used to attack civilian targets including schools, hospitals, weddings and funerals.  Yet we continue to aid the Saudis and the sale of weapons continues.  The Royal family is used to visit the regime and to welcome them here on a recent state visit.  The sale of weapons is so valuable that any concern at the destruction caused is effectively ignored.

In the context of the Yemen, as in many other conflicts, it is women and children who suffer often disproportionately.  The destruction of their community, the bombing of medical facilities and schools, the difficulty in acquiring food and clean water, all make life extremely difficult for them.  So it was interesting to read that the Defence Minister, Gavin Williamson, attended a meeting in London with representatives of countries experiencing conflict.  Countries included:  the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Iraq, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Ukraine, as well as several international action groups, were welcomed to discuss the issues faced in their countries, particularly by women.

It is noticeable that Yemen was not among them.

Mr Williamson said:

Conflict can have devastating effects for anyone caught in its path, but life can be particularly traumatic for women. They are subject to violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, and their calls for justice are often falling on deaf ears.

I am determined we do more to listen to those who are often not given a voice. It is only by understanding the situation faced by women and girls that we will be able to protect them. Ministry of Defence news story, 19 July 2018 [accessed 27 July]

It appears that most if not all the countries attending had UK-trained peace keepers deployed there.  The news story went on to claim:

The UK has already increased peacekeeping in Sudan and Somalia, has deployed four Military Gender and Protection Advisers to DRC and has established a UK centre of excellence to integrate guidelines on women, peace and security into its work.  It is also among the first countries to publish a National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security

The minister claims that he is determined to ‘do more to listen to those often not given a voice‘.  This raises the question of what happens when he is told it is your weapons which are destroying our lives.  What more does he need to be told?  There have been countless authenticated reports on the destruction our weapons (and those of USA and France) have caused in war zones like Yemen.  A Médecins sans Frontières report is another example among many.  Countless reports, evidence on the ground, news reports and footage, all graphically describe the terrible events in that country.

So the questions for Mr Williamson are – when you have read the reports and done your ‘listening’ what are you going to do?  Will you take steps to cease arming the Saudis with weapons they are using to cause such mayhem?  Will you bring home the RAF personnel who are involved in the conflict?  What in short will you do to ease the plight of women caught ‘in its path’ as you put it?  Or was this just an exercise in public relations which will have no tangible or beneficial effects on the lives of women in war zones?

Will you listen and do nothing?


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MSF in Yemen

Posted: July 30, 2017 in arms trade, Yemen
Tags: , , , , , ,

A doctor working for Médicins sans Frontières shares her experiences of working in Yemen

Hella Hultin is a Swedish surgeon who is working for MSF in Yemen.  In the current issue, she writes of her experiences of working in Khameeer in northern Yemen.

We were about to do an appendectomy on a girl, but my Yemeni colleague thought I might be tired after the long journey.  So I sat in the operating room to watch.  Suddenly both our phones rang.  The voice on the other end was stressed asking me to come straight to the emergency room.

“Help! How do I get there?” I thought, while I quickly put on a white coat and hurried out, so fast the cats outside scattered in all directions.  “Emergency?” I asked the attendant outside, and was pointed in the right direction.

When I arrived, the Emergency room was full of people, both patients and relatives.  Many patients were being rolled in on stretchers from the ambulance entrance.  I was told there had been an airstrike and more injured would be arriving soon.  The injured were all covered in dust and dirt, and almost all had wounds from shrapnel.  Several had fractures of the arms or legs, and some had burns on their face and hands.

A desperate husband was running around the room screaming.  When I managed to get the interpreter to translate what he was saying, it turned out he was missing two of his children who had been caught up in the strike.  It’s not hard to imagine his anxiety.

We got to work and ended up operating all night.  We transferred two of the most seriously injured to a larger hospital for specialist treatment that we were unable to provide.

Hours later I made it to bed.  As I lay down, it felt like I’d been there for weeks.

We do not know from this account the nature of the airstrike but there is no suggestion that those injured are military personnel.  Accounts from people working inside Yemen are scarce as the Saudi’s have blockaded the country.  Only a few journalists have managed to get in and there was a radio report last week of BBC’s Radio 4 news (limited time podcast).

We cannot tie this account to a strike using British weapons but we are a major supplier of materiel to the regimeThe High Court recently absolved the UK government in a case brought by the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.


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British weapons being used to bomb civilians

This week we have been treated to speeches in Parliament and a great deal of press interest on the question of bombing Isis.  The political temperature rose after the terrible events in Paris and the indiscriminate killing of people sitting in cafés and at a pop concert.

The government would now like the UK to join in the bombing campaign against Isis positions and David Cameron gave a lengthy speech in Parliament setting out his justifications for that course of action.

Meanwhile, in Yemen, another terrible conflict is in progress and yet this receives almost no coverage in the press.  Thousands have died (one estimate is 5,700) including an estimated 400 children, and airstrikes by Saudi Arabian forces are bombing the country on a daily basis.  Schools and hospitals are bombed and cluster bombs are being used in contravention of international treaties.

Paveway missile sold to the Saudis

Paveway missile sold to the Saudis

The difference is that Saudi Arabia is a big buyer of our weapons – indeed an estimated half of all weapons sales by the UK go there – so they are an important customer.  Little is said to criticise them and readers of this blog will be aware of our attempts to get our government to take a more robust line in view of their multiple human rights abuses.

Amnesty and HRW have criticised the US government for agreeing to sell an unbelievable $1.3bn (£860m) of further ordinance to replenish stocks used in the campaign.  This is in breach of the Arms Trade Treaty since the weapons are being used against civilians.  Médecins sans Frontières report:

… ordinary people are bearing the brunt of an increasingly brutal conflict.  Severe water shortages combined with airstrikes, sniper attacks and a fuel blockade have rapidly turned this conflict into a humaniitarian crisis, with over one million people displaced from their homes.  The need for food, water, shelter, sanitation and medical care is growing daily.

Many clinics and hospitals have been destroyed, and those that are still functioning are in urgent need of more medical supplies.  Yemen: A country under siege

AI and Human Rights Watch are in no doubt that UK and US supplied munitions are being used to cause this mayhem in Yemen.  Up until now we have received nothing but bland assurances from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and from our MP.  But recent events including changes to the Ministerial code and a downgrading of human rights in policy matters, seems to indicate that it is profit before humanity which is the key factor.

This might change because now that British made weaponry is turning up in Yemen thus causing some concern in the FCO.  They are beginning to question the wisdom of supplying the Saudis who then use the stuff to kill ordinary civilians.  We could just be indicted for war crimes.  They are also worried that we are helping create the conditions for an Isis type organisation to establish themselves in Yemen.

So while speeches are made about bombing Isis, we are busy supplying the weaponry to create another catastrophe on the Saudi peninsular…

Sources:

MSF;  The Independent;  Belfast Telegraph;  Business News;  HRW