AN ENTIRE country is “starving to death” due to war fuelled by UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia, Oxfam has said.

Impoverished Yemen imported 90 per cent of its food before war broke out 20 months ago. Now it can get less than half of what is needed to feed its 26.7 million-strong population and experts predict 21 million people – almost four times the population of Scotland – will soon become food insecure.

Prices of staples have rocketed, with the cost of cereals up more than 50 per cent on pre-crisis rates, while income falls.

More than 30 per cent of the workforce are civil servants and have not been paid or have received irregular payments in recent months. And 1.5 million people reliant on welfare payments have received no money at all since the war started.

The fighting began when Houthi rebels moved against the government and was exacerbated when a Saudi-led coalition joined the fight in support of the official Yemeni government.

Since then, more than 11,000 civilians have been killed or injured and more than three million have been forced to flee their homes by attacks, including air strikes launched using UK-made planes and RAF-trained pilots.

The UN aid effort in Yemen is currently less than 60 per cent funded, falling £540 million short of what is needed.

Last night, Oxfam urged the UK Government to end its lucrative arms sales to Saudi Arabia – worth £2.8 billion in the first six months of conflict alone – and asked the Gulf kingdom to lift the shipping restrictions impeding consignments of medicine, food and fuel.

Together with the destruction of port facilities by the coalition, it has reduced the ability of ports to handle cargo, making for average delays of 53 days for vessels landing at Saleef in the north-west of the country last month, and 23 days at Hodeidah.

Smuggling on the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia allows some supplies in, but not enough to ease the shortage and projections suggest there will be “virtually no imports” through ports by April if the trend continues.

Disruption to fuel production means the oil-exporting nation now struggles for power, which has reduced the availability of pumped fresh water for hospitals and homes.

Oxfam GB chief executive Mark Goldring said: “Yemen is being slowly starved to death. First there were restrictions on imports, including much-needed food.

"When this was partially eased the cranes in the ports were bombed, then the warehouses, then the roads and the bridges. This is not by accident, it is systematic.

“The country’s economy, its institutions, its ability to feed and care for its people, are on the brink of collapse.

“There is still time to pull it back before we see chronic hunger becoming widespread starvation. The fighting needs to stop and the ports should be fully opened to vital supplies of food, fuel and medicine.

“As one of the principal backers of this brutal war, Britain needs to end its arms sales and military support to the Saudis and help put Yemen on the road to peace.”

The UK Government has repeatedly denied claims that arms sold by British firms are being used by the Saudi military to commit war crimes, despite deadly strikes on hospitals, schools, residential areas, weddings and funerals.

A judicial review on the weapons sales brought by the Campaign Against Arms Trade will be heard in February.

The call came as fresh pictures emerged of 18-year-old Saida Ahmad Baghili, whose emaciated frame shocked the world. The teenager has put on five kilos to reach 16kg after several weeks in hospital in the capital Sanaa.

She is now able to stand up and smile, but it is thought that malnutrition may have permanently damaged her voice and bones.