IT’S been four years since the bombs started landing in earnest in Yemen, and four years since I fled the country I’d called home, my pregnant wife’s hand in mine. I didn’t know when it would be safe to return; I suspected it wouldn’t be soon, although no one could have foreseen what was to follow. It’s been agonising to watch from afar as this man-made catastrophe has unfolded.

Since the conflict escalated in March 2015, the fighting has killed 6660 civilians and forced nearly three million people to flee their homes. Yemen has experienced a cholera epidemic of record proportions and the UN has warned that the country is on the brink of the worst famine the world has witnessed in decades.

Fighting has forced many families to flee to isolated areas that lack basic infrastructure, with no schools, water networks, proper sewage disposal systems or health centres.

Many of them are living in small tents or mud houses which offer little protection against the scorching heat of the summer, rain or the desert’s freezing temperatures during winter nights.

With no income and limited job opportunities, many families can’t afford enough food and resort to skipping meals, eating only bread and tea, buying food on credit or begging.

An Oxfam colleague based in Yemen recently shared the story of Hamid, a seven-year-old boy he’d met. Because of acute malnutrition, Hamid faints every day or two for hours. His two siblings are also suffering from malnutrition.

Hamid is just one of millions of people suffering right now; more than half of Yemenis do not have enough to eat. As this war has gone on, people’s means of coping with devastating levels of hunger have become more and more desperate.

My Oxfam colleagues also spoke to families in Amran governorate in the north, who, hungry and isolated after fleeing their homes, have been forced to marry off their daughters – in one case as young as three years old – to buy food and shelter to save the rest of the family. Although early marriage has long been a problem in Yemen, marrying off girls at such an early age in desperation to buy food is shocking.

Young girls are expected to consummate the marriage when they turn 11, but even before that they are made to do household work in their husband’s home. Nine-year-old Hanan used to go to school, but since she was married she has had to stop.

She said: “My mother-in-law keeps beating me, and when I run away back to my father’s house, my father beats me again. I don’t want to be married. I just want to go back to school.”

Hanan’s parents, who also married off her three-year-old sister, said they knew marrying off their daughters at such a young age was wrong, but felt they had no choice because the dowry paid in return was the only way of keeping the rest of the family alive.

Families like Hanan’s are being forced to take steps that blight their children’s lives now and for decades to come.

Clearly only an end to the conflict can halt the downward spiral that is forcing people to take such desperate measures. The international community needs to do everything in its power to bring an end to the fighting and ensure people have the food, water and medicine they so desperately need.

Three months ago, the warring parties attended peace talks in Sweden. The fact that they met at all was a big step forward, but these were preliminary talks and progress on implementing the agreements made has been slow.

But now more than ever it’s vital that we do not give up on the potential for peace. In the meantime, the world cannot continue to turn a blind eye to Yemen’s suffering, and allies of the warring parties must stop fuelling the conflict by selling weapons for use in the war. Homes, schools and hospitals, along with Oxfam’s water projects, have been repeatedly bombed.

It’s easy to feel powerless when you read about the seemingly unendingly grim situation in Yemen. But there are things you can do to help; and the first step is to let our political leaders know that you are watching and that you won’t and haven’t looked away from Yemenis’ suffering; that you know that the people of Yemen – people like Hamid and Hanan’s families – are not only starving. They are being starved.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was in Yemen recently in the pursuit of peace, days after the UK’s announcement of £200 million in aid to the country. The UK Government’s welcome humanitarian generosity and diplomatic efforts to push the warring parties towards peace would carry far more weight if it also staunched the flow of weapons which are likely being used to kill and maim innocent civilians.

Oxfam is calling on Jeremy Hunt to suspend UK arms sales to Saudi Arabia and to use the UK’s leadership position at the UN to push for ceasefire across Yemen – not just in Hudaydah.

We need your help to keep the pressure on so that Jeremy Hunt ends the UK’s incoherent and contradictory stance on Yemen. I’d implore you to write to him today and send him a clear message that food should never be used as a weapon of war.

As Yemen approaches another grim milestone this month – marking four years since all-out conflict began – the humanitarian crisis gripping the country is growing graver by the day.

I don’t know what the future holds for those young girls in Yemen or those pressured families struggling to feed their children. Nor do I know when I’ll next return.

But what I do know, is that we must act now to help. The people of Yemen simply cannot wait.