Yemen’s foreign minister Ahmed Awad BinMubarak has a clear message to the European Union: to be united, and to talk to Iran, in order to achieve peace in Yemen.
“I ask the EU to use all the leverage it has to give a message to the Houthis and Iran,” BinMubarak said in an interview with EUobserver.
What that message should be, is accepting the UN’s proposed deal for a ceasefire, reopening the airport in Yemen’s capital Sanaa, reopening the seaport of Al Hudaydah and to restart political talks.
Yemen is going through critical days, as the Saudi-led coalition announced a halt to its military operations – in order to give negotiations by neighbouring Oman a chance.
Unverified sources say Oman may be close to reaching an agreement between the Saudi-supported coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels to stop the fighting and let humanitarian aid into the country.
However, any ceasefire is still uncertain, as the Houthis raise the stakes before agreeing to their participation to new political talks.
On Sunday (13 June) a Houthi drone crashed into a school in Saudi Arabia, although without casualties.
“The international community always talks to [Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif. He always says he supports peace,” he said, adding that “the reality on the ground in Yemen is different, as there it is people from the Quds forces running the show.”
BinMubarak also said that the Yemeni government has found ships full of arms being transported from Iran to the Houthis in Yemen.
Therefore, he concludes “Iran has the key. The EU should pressure the Houthis and Iran – without making a link to the nuclear deal.”
Europe, the United States, Russia and China have been trying to reinstate the nuclear deal with Iran, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by which Iran would not be able to go further with its nuclear arms programme.
Asked about the role of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the conflict, the Yemeni foreign minister said that they only entered the war after the Houthis entered Sanaa, the capital of Yemen.
Saudi Arabia has been accused of war crimes in Yemen by Human Rights Watch and other human rights organisations.
World’s biggest humanitarian crisis
The war in Yemen, lasting more than six years now, has brought the country to total collapse.
According to Unicef, “Yemen is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with more than 24 million people – some 80 per cent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance, including more than 12 million children.”
More than four million people have fled their homes, and are mostly displaced inside the country.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees “approximately 66 percent of IDPs [internally-displaced people] in Yemen live in dangerous locations, characterised by widespread food insecurity and lack of water, healthcare and sanitation services.”
“Their situation has become even more challenging since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat of a looming famine in the country,” the UN agency says.
Despite this tragic situation, Yemen itself is still hosting more than 135,000 refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia.
BinMubarak told EUobserver he was visiting Brussels to correct some wrong perceptions about the war in Yemen.
“The conflict in Yemen is not one between regional powers. Neither is it a sectarian war. Many in the EU forget the national factor in the conflict,” he said.
“Also, the humanitarian crisis is not just a result of the war, it is man-made. As one of the most important contributors to humanitarian aid in Yemen, the EU should be more aware of this,” he added.
The EU has funded Yemen with €648m in humanitarian aid since 2015, and €95m in 2021.
However, according to BinMubarak, the aid is not reaching the people that really need it. “80-percent of the aid comes through the port of Hudeida, controlled by the Houthi rebels. People who are suffering the most, don’t receive anything.”
“Therefore,” he added, “we need fix the real problem. We have to break the circle. We need to end this war.”
‘We lived in their tents’
Since the Arab revolution in 2011, Yemen has ricocheted from one crisis to another.
The Arab Spring lead to the resignation of Ali Abdullah Saleh, president of North Yemen from 1978 to 1990, and president of Yemen from 1990 until 25 February 2012.
He was succeeded by his former vice-president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, following an agreement made at the National Dialogue Conference, held between March 2013 and January 2014.
BinMubarak himself was secretary-general of the National Dialogue Conference, arguing he knows the Houhtis well.
“We lived with them in the same tents at Tahrir Square during the uprising,” he said.
According to BinMubarak, the Houthis were constructive during the national dialogue – but that has now changed, under the influence of Iran.
President Hadi, as well as the government of Yemen, lived in exile in Saudi Arabia, but since December 2020 operate out of Aden.
Malaria kills 180,000 more people annually than previously thought, says WHO | Global development
The World Health Organization has called for a “massive, urgent” effort to get the new malaria vaccine into the arms of African children, as it warned that about 180,000 more people were dying annually from the disease than had previously been thought.
Dr Pedro Alonso, director of the WHO’s global malaria programme, said the RTS,S vaccine, recommended for widespread rollout in October, represented a historic opportunity to save tens of thousands of lives, mostly those of under-fives in sub-Saharan Africa.
But he warned that the global community risked “massive failure” if funding commitments aimed at boosting production and helping deployment of the vaccine were not rapidly made.
“What I think is the real barrier [is] international solidarity,” he said. “Is the world going to allow that there is a first malaria vaccine that can save the lives of tens of thousands of African children every year and they’re going to let it sit on a shelf? Or are they going to step up?”
The British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKlein, which developed the RTS,S vaccine, has committed to donate up to 10m doses for use in the pilot programmes already under way, and to supply up to 15m doses annually.
However, with more than 240m cases globally last year, the potential demand could reach 80 to 100m doses annually, Alonso warned. “Therefore, this is a prime example of where international mechanisms will need to come into play,” he said.
“A vaccine that could save somewhere between 40 and 70-80,000 lives every year, of African children, is something that needs to be treated with the utmost ambition and sense of urgency. And therefore, a slow, gradual scale-up, if you ask me, would not be acceptable. This needs to be a massive, urgent operation to ensure that we can reach as many children as possible and as soon as possible.”
He added: “If the global health community does not respond to this challenge, it will represent a massive failure. I cannot imagine how different leaders, leaders of philanthropy or of financing institutions, are going to go to Africa and advocate for efforts to prevent childhood deaths if they don’t, first and foremost, support the deployment of this vaccine.”
Last week, the global vaccine alliance, Gavi, said its board had approved an initial $155.7m (£117m) for the rollout of RTS,S. The funding would help the introduction, procurement and delivery of the vaccine for eligible countries in sub-Saharan Africa from 2022 until 2025, it said.
Dr Abdourahmane Diallo, CEO of the RBM Partnership to End Malaria, said the announcement would give the private sector “a crucial motive to scale up” the rollout.
“We now call on leaders to step up investment to accelerate the development and delivery of more effective, transformative tools to combat the ever-evolving malaria parasite,” he said.
New figures released by the WHO on Monday underlined the scale of the problem, with a new, “more precise” method of counting estimating that 627,000 people died of malaria last year, 180,000 more than the total would have been according to the old methodology.
The vast majority of all malaria deaths – 96% – were in sub-Saharan Africa.
In its annual malaria report, the WHO said the “doomsday scenario” some had predicted at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic – that deaths from malaria would double as a result of disruption to treatment and services – had not materialised.
Nonetheless, it said, deaths had risen by nearly 70,000 last year, an increase of 12%, of which nearly 50,000 were attributable to disruptions during the pandemic. One main cause of disruption was that more than a quarter of insecticide-treated bed nets – the backbone of WHO efforts to combat malaria – were not distributed in 2020.
Faced with a slowing of progress in the fight against malaria, the WHO believes the vaccine could be a crucial new weapon, even though questions have been raised over its limited efficacy. Over four years of trials, RTS,S was found to prevent 39% of malaria cases and 29% of severe malaria cases.
But Alonso rejected concerns. “A reduction of 30% [in] severe cases of malaria means a massive public health impact, larger probably than any other vaccine against any other disease being used right now,” he said.
Fresh violence at anti-vax protests in Brussels
Belgian police fired water cannon at violent anti-vaccination protesters outside EU buildings in Brussels for the second weekend in a row on Sunday. More than 40,000 people also protested against lockdowns in Vienna Saturday. Several thousand people also protested in Utrecht, in The Netherlands, as well as in Berlin and Frankfurt, where German police used batons and pepper spray after being attacked by a radical minority in the demonstration.
‘They see it in corridors, in bathrooms, on the bus’: UK schools’ porn crisis | Pornography
Barnardo’s works directly with children who are victims of abuse or display signs of harmful or risky sexual behaviour. In 2020-21, they worked with 382,872 children, young people, parents and carers.
In a recent survey of their frontline workers across England and Wales, staff reported a rise in the number of children participating in acts they have seen in pornographic videos, despite feeling uncomfortable or scared. They describe porn as having a “corrosive” effect on child wellbeing.
Child sexual abuse expert Sarah works with children who are displaying signs of inappropriate sexual behaviour. She also trains other professionals who work with children
“I started out as a primary school teacher eight years ago, and I’ve been worried about children seeing porn ever since. Children don’t have to be able to type to see porn – it can be sent to them or shown to them on someone else’s phone. They see it at school, in the corridors, in the bathrooms, on the bus. There is just no censor on any of it – one video leads to another. If you can imagine it, it exists as porn, and children are seeing it.
“I am working with a teenager who was sexually abused by a family member. This young person had been exposed to porn and it was perpetuating what the abuser told them – that this is normal, that it’s not abuse.”
She is particularly concerned, as are her colleagues, about the increasingly extreme nature of the porn freely available on mainstream sites.
“A common role play theme on porn sites is intra-familial abuse – on mainstream sites you will see fetishisation of grandad and granddaughter sex, or stepfathers and stepdaughters. This may lead to a young person not disclosing or getting the support they need. From both angles it is dangerous; it puts the child at risk and encourages the perpetrator.
“The impact of porn shows in children harming others or themselves because they either don’t understand or are so ashamed of sexual urges. Shame is very prevalent and is often hidden.
“We are working with a seven-year-old who has been exposed to porn and is now displaying sexualised behaviour. They had free rein on a device, and someone hadn’t deleted a browser history. Once a young person sees porn, they may feel a need to come back again and again – porn is designed to meet a need. That is a form of sexual abuse against that child.”
Brian* is a senior social worker who has worked with children for over 30 years
“Unfortunately, porn is a feature for the majority of the children who come into our service. The children we support are very damaged. They would be likely to have experienced multiple forms of abuse – sexual, physical and domestic. Porn in and of itself is not the cause of their behaviour but it becomes a compounding factor when it hits that history of vulnerability.
Adult sex offenders can give children a distorted rationalisation for their behaviour, and the messages that are given through porn then fit with that distortion.
Lucy* has worked within the field of child sexual abuse for 16 years.
“We know children find porn distressing – they are telling us that themselves. We have done research with children in schools so that we have a cohort to compare our vulnerable children to, and they are saying the same thing.
“This is not what could be described as erotic or soft porn. They may start on porn sites and quickly begin to see very hardcore material. Or [extreme material] lands in their social media feeds, and they can then feel compelled to go back and look again.
“Children are less able to manage sexual arousal, and this material is designed to be arousing. Lots of children can feel guilty and distressed by what they see. We have 14-year-olds telling us they have to watch it as soon as they wake up. They describe being preoccupied with accessing porn to an extent that impacts upon their day-to-day life.
“We also regularly work with children with learning disabilities, another group vulnerable to the harm of porn. They may be shielded from sexual information and then reach 13 or 14 and take away the wrong learning from porn. They may learn that no means yes, that if you persist, women will enjoy forced sex. These messages are harmful for any child but for children with learning needs or who have developed unhealthy beliefs around sex as a result of abuse, it’s particularly bad.
“After lockdown, we began to get more calls from parents where there is no other obvious trauma, just the exposure to porn. I’ve been doing this 16 years, and children have far more access to porn now.”
* Names and some details have been changed to protect identities
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