Photo: Florian Seriex for Action Against Hunger, Hodeidah, Yemen

Two years of war in Yemen

Six aid organisations issue joint alert on one of the most serious humanitarian emergencies in the world

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Mar 22 2017

Editor's note: The following is a joint statement issued on March 22, 2017  by six international humanitarian organisations operating in Yemen: Action Against Hunger, Care, Handicap International, Médicines du Monde, Première Urgence Internationale, and Solidarités International.

March 26, 2017 marks two years since the launch of an armed offensive in Yemen led  by Saudi Arabia and a multinational coalition supporting the president of Yemen against the Houthi  rebel movement. Two years after the onset of the war, Yemen is facing one of the most serious humanitarian crises in the world, with nearly 19 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and facing the looming threat of famine.

RISK OF IMMINENT FAMINE

In Yemen, 17 million people lack sufficient access to food: that's 60 percent of the population.

Serge Breysse, director of advocacy for Action Against Hunger in France, said: "An estimated 462,000 children under the age of five are  now in immediate danger of death because they suffer from the most severe form of malnutrition. That is an increase of more than 200 percent in three years. "

United Nations Resolution 2216 of April 2015, which introduced an arms embargo for the Houthis and their allies, has de facto become an air and sea blockade restricting virtually all imports of fuel, food and basic life-sustaining necessities. Restrictions on imports of wheat are now one of the country's most serious challenges and the main threat to food security: Yemen imported about 90 percent of its food stocks before the conflict. There is an elevated risk of famine across the country.

DISREGARD FOR THE PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS

Six international humanitarian organisations operating in parts of Yemen are deeply concerned by the massive and repeated use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas in Yemen. Increasingly, explosive weapons designed for warfare on open battlefields are being used in towns and cities in contemporary conflicts, which constitutes blatant disregard for fundamental principles of war and is a violation of international humanitarian law.

"The bombardments that rain down every day in Yemen show an utter disregard for the lives of civilians. Every day, our teams, when they are able to reach people in need, are confronted with the physical and psychological distress of traumatized civilians. This massacre in the open air is unbearable and intolerable, "said Jean-Pierre Delomier, Handicap International's emergency action manager.

Civilians are suffering, which is made worse by the fact that humanitarian organiations often cannot reach them due to violence, and they therefore have no access to assistance. 

At the end of October 2016, less than half of Yemen's health facilities (hospitals or health centers) were functioning because they were damaged or destroyed as a result of the conflict. The health system in Yemen is on the verge of collapse. The blockades of supplies and the financial crisis affecting the country have crippled the delivery of medicines and medical equipment, and the country's healthcare workers have not been paid for many months. 

"This war is being waged at the expense of civilians. Cholera has been raging in Yemen since last October, with more than 20,000 suspected cases and almost 100 deaths. Mental health disorders such as psychoses, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are common," said Dr. Jean-François Corty, director of international operations for Médecins du Monde.

LIMITED HUMANITARIAN ACCESS

Two years after the start of the conflict, humanitarian organisations still cannot reach vulnerable populations in many areas due to fighting. This lack of access to people in need is one of the major challenges to saving lives and alleviating the immense suffering, with neither party to the conflict enabling humanitarian actors to safely deliver aid. The partial or complete destruction of the country's roads, bridges, airports, ports, and public buildings greatly restricts the ability to transport and deliver humanitarian personnel and goods where they are needed, and also cuts off communities from access to basic, essential services.

"For humanitarian workers, the challenges of getting access to populations seems to be increasing. We call on the international community and all parties to the conflict to intensify their efforts to improve this still insufficient access," said Hélène Quéau, director of operations of Première Urgence Internationale.

In a joint statement in recognition of the second anniversary of war in Yemen, Action Against Hunger, Care, Handicap International, Médicines du Monde, Première Urgence Internationale and Solidarités International call on the international community and all parties to the conflict to mobilize immediate action to remove the obstacles to the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to Yemen to prevent famine. The six humanitarian organisations demand the lifting of the blockade, which effectively prevents imports of food and medicines, and call for all parties to respect and uphold the rights of civilian populations.

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