Yemen famine and my 70th birthday

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On Friday 28th October 2016, it is my 70th birthday.  On that day, probably hundreds of Yemeni people, especially children, will die of starvation.  This man made famine in Yemen is directly caused by a cruel embargo, which is stopping food from entering the west side of the country where most of the 25 million Yemenis live.  The loading cranes at the port of Hodeida are unusable as they were bombed by hostile forces in 2015, and road and bridges that allow distribution of food have also been destroyed. Thousands of farms, warehouses including one run by Oxfam, grain silos, food factories, markets, water pumps, have been destroyed in a systematic manner over the last year.  Also many lorries attempting to distribute food have also been bombed. Last week there was a 3 day truce in order to deliver humanitarian supplies – on the day before the truce began, the airports of Sanaa and Hodeida were yet again bombed, so that no aircraft carrying humanitarian supplies could land.  Fishermen have been repeated bombed off the coast, making it far too dangerous for them to attempt to go to sea.  Over 3.5 million people are displaced and living in makeshift tents caused by the aerial bombardment of their homes, aggravating problems caused by the lack of food and clean water.

This has caused a famine, particularly severe in the area of the Tihama, which borders the Red Sea, but a large part of the western area of Yemen is suffering badly.  This has been worsened by the decision to move Yemen Central Bank out from Sanaa, the capital, a strategic decision made by Hadi, whom the world describes erroneously as a democratically elected president of Yemen – in fact he was elected in an uncontested election in February 2012 for a fixed two year term as interim president, and it was the ending of his term that started a major power struggle inside Yemen that precipitated a civil war, the Yemen army sided moved against the deeply unpopular Hadi who called in his neighbours to help him gain control of Yemen.  Hadi was warned that moving the bank – that had been heroically paying salaries to all ‘sides’ in the conflict that was in itself delaying catastrophe in Yemen – would precipitate starvation of Yemeni people. Nonetheless Hadi moved the bank and salaries to those in the west of Yemen have now stopped.  Bank notes that remain in circulation are tattered and becoming unusable.

Horrific pictures of starving men, women and children are now circulating on the Internet.  Almost certainly tens of thousands of small children, maybe hundreds of thousands, have already died. These deaths are not included in war statistics and indeed are not being collected.  Cholera is now sweeping Yemen as the water supply is drying up and deteriorating, causing further deaths.   All of this with little attention from the world’s media, although there have been programmes late in the evenings on BBC and ITV in the last few weeks, and occasional stories in the British press.  Despite the desperate situation amazing and inexplicably there has been no official charity appeal in UK.  The man made starvation of Yemen is being done silently but steadily, and is now reaching crisis proportions, apparently with the cooperation of world governments.

It is made worse by the deterioration of the health services in Yemen caused by aerial bombardment and embargo.  So many hospitals in Yemen have been destroyed (including four MSF hospitals) that many hospital staff are too frightened to go to work, and patients to terrified to attend.  Over 58% of Yemenis now have no access to health care. Additionally, around 200 nutritional centres are not functioning due to the war. Many hospitals that are still admitting starving children can only do so if the patients can pay for care because of their desperate economic plight. When treated patients are discharged, they return to starvation conditions in their homes or temporary accommodation.

On my 70th birthday, I would like to raise money for the starving in Yemen.  I would like sponsorship for a gym session, which includes:

  • wall squat of 5 minutes.
  • kettle bell swing of 24 kg for at least 10 swings
  • kettle bell swing of 10 kg for at least 30 in one minute
  • sit ups for at least 20 in one minute
  • bicep curls with 2x6kg weights at least 10 curls
  • crucifix hold with 2x2kg weights for at least 1 minute
  • rowing 1000 metres in under 5 minutes 15 seconds

Additionally, am planning to do two challenges at  my yoga class on the same day.

  • two balances of one minute each

I am hoping my efforts will achieve two aims.  Firstly, it will demonstrate that old age is not a barrier to fitness and the ability to change the world for the better.  And secondly, it will publicise the famine in Yemen, and hopefully help in a small way to relieve it.

I hope that my colleagues, family and friends who read of the desperate yet unpublicised situation in Yemen will support me by going to my Just Giving page and donating as much as they can, even if it is only a couple of pounds, and also circulating this appeal so that more people can learn the story of the Yemen famine, and appreciate that older people still contribute to our society.

I thank you, so sincerely, for reading my story.  Please donate today to


Dr. Judith Brown.








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