Step up humanitarian support to 7.1 million people and invest in Sudan’s development: UN relief chief
“Millions of people face serious and growing humanitarian needs,” said UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, at the end of a three-day visit to Sudan, stressing the importance of unimpeded, sustained humanitarian access.
“Many have suffered for the past 15 years, but we cannot let them slide back into a situation where they become completely dependent on humanitarian assistance,” he added, underlining the need to scale up longer-term development aid to help the country make itself more resilient.
During his mission, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs met Government officials, welcoming their efforts to improve humanitarian access to remote areas, including those controlled by non-State armed groups.
Mr. Lowcock also spoke with humanitarian partners and visited settlements for those internally-displaced in Murta and Kulba, in South Kordofan.
While unilateral ceasefires have improved security across Darfur, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, recent skirmishes between armed groups in pockets of Darfur’s Jebel Marra region have caused a wave of internal displacement, said the relief chief.
“It is critical to strengthen social protection mechanisms for the most vulnerable, including returnees, internally displaced people and host communities,” he said, highlighting his particular concern for the protection of women and children who are vulnerable to sexual violence.
Mr. Lowcock commended the Sudanese Government and people in hosting some 1.2 million refugees this year, including over 770,000 from war-torn South Sudan. Price increases mean that many cannot afford to buy food, while recent fuel shortages have impacted the ability of aid convoys to reach many in need.
He urged the international community to provide more support to the 2018 UN-coordinated Humanitarian Response Plan, which is appealing for $1.4 billion. So far this year, donors have provided some $229 million.
Published on UN News on May 14, 2018
By Oliver Holmes and Hazem Balousha in Gaza City, and Peter Beaumont
International condemnation of Israel’s killing of 60 Palestinian protesters in Gaza has escalated as tens of thousands of people rallied in the coastal enclave to bury the dead.
The killings took place on Monday during demonstrations at the Gaza border fence, which coincided with a high-profile ceremony to mark the transfer of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which overturned decades of US foreign policy.
The UK prime minister, Theresa May, was among those who spoke out strongly on Tuesday. A spokesman said she was “deeply troubled” by Israel’s use of live fire and “the scale of the violence”.
On Tuesday Palestinians marked the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, commemorating the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.
Senior UN officials condemned the recent killings as an “outrageous human rights violation” and said it appeared that anyone approaching the Gaza border fence was liable to be killed by Israeli soldiers. Ireland summoned Israel’s ambassador to protest against the fatalities. Russia and China also expressed their concern over the killings.
But any prospect of the US allowing an investigation under the aegis of the Security Council seemed remote after the American ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, threw Washington’s weight behind Israel, saying no country would show the “restraint” that Israel had.
Most of the Gazans who died on Monday were shot by Israeli snipers, Gaza’s health ministry said. According to the Hamas-run ministry, the dead included eight children under the age of 16. At least 2,400 people were wounded.
Summing up the concern of many, Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights, said in Geneva: “The mere fact of approaching a fence is not a lethal, life-threatening act, so that does not warrant being shot. It seems that anyone is liable to be shot dead.” He stressed that international laws that applied to Israel made clear that “lethal force may only be used as a measure of last, not first, resort.”
In an apparent dismissal of Israel’s justification for the high casualty levels, Colville said: “It is not acceptable to say that ‘this is Hamas and therefore this is OK.”
Israel has accused Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, of being behind the protests and said it was merely defending its territory.
The UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said: “Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account.” The World Health Organisation also intervened, saying the scale of the injuries was threatening to overwhelm Gaza’s already beleaguered health system.
Citing figures from the Gazan health ministry and a group of aid agencies, a WHO official, Mahmoud Daher, told the Associated Press that 2,771 people were wounded during Monday’s unrest. Of those, 1,360 were wounded by live fire, 400 by shrapnel and 980 were suffering from gas inhalation. He said the majority of those wounded by live fire were struck in their lower limbs.
As the burials of the dead got under way on Tuesday, a senior Hamas official, Khalil al-Hayya, vowed that the protests in Gaza would continue, while on the West Bank the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, declared a general strike on Tuesday after accusing Israel of “massacres”.
The scenes of lethal violence on Monday were placed side by side on the front pages of many of the world’s newspapers with images from the glossy inauguration of Washington’s new mission about 60 miles away in an affluent Jerusalem neighbourhood. Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, celebrated the opening to clapping and cheering from American and Israeli VIPs.
Critics of the embassy move, which the US president hailed as a “great day” for Israel, said the optics of Monday’s embassy opening and the Gaza deaths would damage Washington’s stature as a mediator between those parties and could have unpredictable consequences.
“Traditionally, we’ve tried to play a role of fireman in the Middle East. Now we’re playing the role of arsonist,” said Ilan Goldenberg, a former state department and Pentagon official who runs the Middle East program at the Center for a New American Security.
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, joined the US in blaming Hamas for the deaths at the border. He defended his country’s use of force, saying: “Every country has the obligation to defend its borders.”
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said he condemned “the violence of the Israeli armed forces against protesters” in a telephone call withAbbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. He reaffirmed his criticism of the US decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem.
Anger at Trump’s December declaration on the embassy helped to ignite the six-week protest movement. To international condemnation, Israeli snipers have regularly fired on demonstrators during past rallies.
Trump’s decision to move the embassy and to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel dismayed Palestinians, who see East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state. The holy city has been one of the most contentious issues in past negotiations, and broad international consensus has been that its status will be settled under a peace deal, although Trump has said Jerusalem is now “off the table”.
Many Israelis have praised the decision to move the diplomatic mission. The Friends of Zion Museum has put up posters in Jerusalem saying: “Make Israel Great Again”, and US flags have been hung from buildings in the city.
Published on The Guardian on May 15, 2018
UN Humanitarian Chief welcomes donor pledge of $4.4 bln to help affected people in Syria and the region in 2018
The international community gathered at the second Brussels conference on Supporting the future of Syria and the region today confirmed US$4.4 billion in funding to support life-saving humanitarian aid as well as resilience and development activities to millions of affected people in Syria and the region this year.
Thirty-six donors at the conference, co-hosted by the European Union and the United Nations, made pledges towards the UN-coordinated Syria Humanitarian Response Plan, the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan, the ICRC Syria Crisis appeals and other activities. Pledges also included support to Palestinian refugees in Syria.
"The pledges announced today are a good start," UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in Brussels. "In an ideal world, we would have liked to raise even more money and we do expect to receive additional funding this year. The money that donors generously provide makes a real difference to the lives of Syrians caught up in this horrible crisis."
The international community also confirmed $3.4 billion in funding for humanitarian, resilience and development activities in 2019 to 2020 for the Syria crisis response.
The Syria crisis is the world's largest protection and displacement crisis and 13.1 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection inside the country. Over 5.6 million Syrians have fled the country mainly to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt.
The UN coordinates two international appeals in response to the Syria crisis. The plan for response inside Syria require US$3.6 billion to provide life-saving assistance and protection for 13.1 million people. The regional refugee and resilience response plan requires $5.6 billion to assist over nine million people with protection, humanitarian and resilience support in the neighbouring countries.
Published on Reliefweb on April 25, 2018
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
With violence in several areas of Syria UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency today expresses its alarm at the civilian deaths this is causing as well as spiralling new displacement. This is on top of a humanitarian situation that is already desperate; Syrian civilians have more than suffered enough.
Of particular concern is the situation in Douma in Eastern Ghouta where tens of thousands of civilians remain trapped. We estimate that more than 133,000 people have fled Eastern Ghouta over the past four weeks. This is almost three times the number we reported on 20 March and includes some 45,000 people who are currently being accommodated in eight collective shelters in Rural Damascus. An estimated 44,000, mainly women, children and elderly have so far been allowed to leave the collective shelters after completion of their security screening. UNHCR teams are working with UN and NGO partners to help improve the conditions at these collective shelters, which remain congested. We continue to appeal to all parties to the conflict for proper protection of civilians, including freedom of movement and free choice over where to stay. Family unity must also be respected.
Since the outset of this emergency, as part of the wider UN response, UNHCR has been working to address the needs of the displaced. Our staff are paying daily visits to all the collective shelters where displaced people from Eastern Ghouta are accommodated, to assess needs and help address them. Overcrowded shelters and insufficient sanitation facilities are posing serious health risks. Common concerns we are hearing are a lack of civil documentation, restrictions on freedom of movement, family separation and SGBV risks.
UNHCR’s response to the Eastern Ghouta emergency encompasses the delivery of core relief items, shelter support and protection services. Nearly a quarter or a million urgently need aid, and more than 60,000 people have been reached so far. UNHCR is purchasing clothes locally as many people fled with nothing more than what they were wearing. In addition to a massive shelter effort, UNHCR protection partners have provided legal counseling to 22,000 people.
Meanwhile, we are facing similar challenges and concerns in responding to the humanitarian needs of more than 137,000 Syrians displaced from the Afrin region. Most are scattered across Tal Rifaat, Nubol, Zahraa and surrounding villages in northwest Aleppo, living in makeshift shelters, damaged or unfinished buildings, mosques, warehouses and open-spaces. Some 3,500 people are being accommodated in a tented camp in Fafin to the north of Aleppo. In addition we have distributed more than 1,400 kits for shelter rehabilitation and redeployed 1,000 UNHCR family-sized tents, for use as needed.
Displacement from Afrin has subsided and some returns to the city are taking place. The challenging journey back home for the displaced may take up to four days in some cases. Movements of displaced people towards Aleppo and other government-controlled areas continues to be constrained.
Published on UNHCR on April 10, 2018.
Since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, Hama governorate has been affected by conflict and witnessed intensified fighting in the second half of 2017. This resulted in access restrictions to food, healthcare, water and fuel, with an estimated 100,000 people in acute need of humanitarian assistance according to the 2018 Humanitarian Needs Overview. Intensification of conflict led in parallel to large displacement, with 230,000 newly displaced people between January and November 2017, of which 62,000 displaced within the governorate according to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Whole of Syria Task Force.
Due to the persistent conflict and rapidly changing local political dynamics, information on the population’s humanitarian situation and needs remains limited and challenging to gather. REACH monitors the humanitarian situation in Hama through monthly needs assessments as part of the Humanitarian Situation Overview in Syria (HSOS) project. Building on the Hama governorate multi-sectoral factsheets, REACH released a trends analysis report (covering July through November 2017), examining major trends across sectors in six northern Hama sub-districts, to shed light on the deterioration of humanitarian conditions in the governorate as well as inform humanitarian actors on past developments that may be used to forecast potential future needs.
According to REACH findings, heightened conflict and insecurity in northern Hama led to significant declines in pre-conflict population in assessed sub-districts, with less than a quarter of the original population remaining in a number of assessed communities by November. During the assessment period from June to November, access to electricity and to water decreased resulting in an increased reliance on generators, and specific communities reporting no source of electricity at all as well as insufficient water quantities. Access restrictions on both fuel and water were attributable to conflict dynamics and resulting damage to or shifts in power over electricity and water stations.
Availability of medical items was also a concern, with unavailability of conflict-related items such as clean bandages and blood transfusion bags, mainly in areas where conflict escalated during the assessment period. A marked increase in the need for anti-anxiety medication and psychiatric care was found across all assessed communities. Access to food was also challenging, due to price fluctuations and a decrease in local food production, leading toincrease in severe food-based coping strategies such as going days without eating.
REACH will continue to monitor changes in Hama governorate and publish monthly, multi-sectoral governorate overviews of the humanitarian situation to inform humanitarian actors on changing needs, enabling aid actors to provide the most effective assistance possible.
Published on REACH on April 2, 2018
The World Food Program director, David Beasley, urged the international community on Tuesday to help Colombia handle the humanitarian "catastrophe" that is unfolding at the border with neighboring Venezuela.
Beasley delivered the warning after a two-day visit to the Colombian border city of Cucuta, where he gathered testimony from Venezuelans who had crossed the border.
"I asked, 'Why are you here?', and the answer people gave me was, 'We don't have any food.' And they said, 'Even if we had money, there's no food,'" Beasley recounted. "I don't think people around the world realize how bad the situation is and how much worse it could very well be," the WFP director said.
"This could turn into an absolute disaster in unprecedented proportions for the Western Hemisphere," Beasley warned.
Colombia at risk
The Venezuelan exodus has sparked alarm across Latin American nations. It is estimated that as many as 3 to 4 million Venezuelans have emigrated, with several hundred thousand in 2017 alone. The bulk of these migrants in 2017 have fled to neighboring Colombia. The Colombian Ministry of Defense, Luis Carlos Villegas, said that there were approximately 700 thousand Venezuelan immigrants registered in the country.
While Beasley said Venezuela's humanitarian crisis was not being driven by an armed conflict, he also warned that the crisis could worsen. He pointed to the example of Syria, a country with a smaller population than Venezuela, which began with a minor food emergency and now has 6 million people a day that need UN food assistance.
As hyperinflation and widespread shortages of food and medicine batter Venezuela, the UN has offered to assist the South American nation directly. Yet, President Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly rejected offers of humanitarian aid, claiming that these are veiled attempts by the US and others to destabilize his government.
Now the WPF director is urging the US and other nations to provide financial assistance to Colombia. The food NGO already has an established presence in Colombia, where it had helped feed those displaced by the country's half-century guerrilla conflict and it is currently working with the government to help meet its malnourishment eradication goal by 2030.
Beasley stressed the importance of shielding Colombia from the adverse effects that Venezuela's crisis could bring. "Colombia has made so much progress in the past many years with peace and the last thing it needs now is for all that success to be undone," he said.
On Saturday, the UN Refugee Agency asked countries in the region to share the burden of the Venezuelan refugee tide and appealed for countries to allow them in and provide them the necessary protections.
Published on DW on March 13, 2018
By Carol Morello and Anne Gearan
The U.N. Security Council on Saturday unanimously called for a 30-day cease-fire in Syria, with Russia agreeing to the temporary hiatus only after forcing two days of delays that critics said allowed ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to pursue a renewed bombing campaign blamed for hundreds of recent deaths in a rebel-controlled area.
The nationwide truce would begin “without delay,” a victory for the United States and other nations that resisted Russian efforts to push back the start or soften the terms.
It came after intense negotiations to persuade Russia not to use its veto power in the Security Council. Moscow had blocked 11 previous Syria resolutions. The United States and others accused Moscow of protecting the Assad government and its bombing campaign in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta while allowing a humanitarian disaster to continue.
There was a further delay Saturday as Russia and the United States haggled behind closed doors over the final text. Cameras in the Security Council chamber captured other delegates poring over the document shortly before the session finally began, more than two hours behind schedule.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said little had changed during the arduous negotiations, “except a few words and some commas.” She blamed Russia, Syria and Iran for not taking moral responsibility for the urgency of the situation.
“As they dragged out the negotiation, the bombs from Assad’s fighter jets continued to fall,” she said. “In the three days it took us to adopt this resolution, how many mothers lost their kids to the bombing and shelling? How many more images did we need to see of fathers holding their dead children?
“All for nothing, because here we are voting for a cease-fire that could have saved lives days ago.”
It will be up to Russia to use its influence with Assad to enforce the cease-fire, which would allow desperately needed deliveries of emergency supplies and medical evacuations of the seriously injured and sick.
Activists and monitors say that more than 500 civilians have been killed in the past week in Eastern Ghouta in what is considered the fiercest assault in seven years of civil war. Each day of delay in imposing the cease-fire allowed Assad’s forces to destroy more of the largely rebel-controlled area.
The humanitarian convoys “are ready to go,” Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog told the council.
It was not at first clear when the cease-fire would take effect. The United States had wanted the agreement to apply right away, which Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia called unrealistic.
Speaking through an interpreter, Nebenzia urged a “concrete agreement for the warring parties in Syria.” He did not directly address the current humanitarian crisis.
Nebenzia said the United States should focus on trying to end the war and halt “dubious” intervention efforts, “instead of scaling up rhetoric against Russia.”
“I cannot even count the number of statements by U.S. Ambassador Haley, how many times that the name Russia was mentioned.”
“This ended up being a bit of a showdown” between Haley and Nebenzia, said a Security Council diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the backroom negotiations.
“She succeeded in retaining vital language in the resolution that called for an immediate start to the cease-fire and unfettered humanitarian access without delay. The Russians kept trying to water it down.”
On Friday, a vote was scheduled, and delayed, three separate times before diplomats gave up the effort after sundown.
One sticking point was when the cease-fire would begin. The draft submitted Friday night by Kuwait and Sweden did not give a specific start time.
The resolution would demand “that all parties cease hostilities without delay for at least 30 consecutive days throughout Syria for a durable humanitarian pause, to enable the immediate delivery of humanitarian aid and services and medical evacuations of the critically sick and wounded.”
It would encourage efforts toward a longer cease-fire, but it does not set terms for that goal.
It also would carve out an exception for military action against the Islamic State, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
Some diplomats suspect that Russia was stalling a vote to allow Syria’s warplanes to continue the country’s offensive against rebels with missiles, mortars and barrel bombs.
Hospitals also have been hit, and the pleas coming from some of the 400,000 residents of the area have grown increasingly desperate.in the face of what U.N. officials describe as a medieval siege. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres labeled conditions in Eastern Ghouta “hell on earth.”
“Our government has the right to defend itself,” Syria’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Jaafari, told the council. Syria considers the anti-Assad rebels to be terrorists. Other terrorist groups have exploited the civil war to gain ground in Syria.
Jaafari said the United States, Britain and France are improperly attempting to dictate to Syria, while engaging in what he called improper military intervention around the world.
“We are exercising the sovereign right of self-defense within our national borders,” he said. Syria has attempted to evacuate civilians from Eastern Ghouta, he said.
World leaders appealed to Russia to back the truce allowing a temporary reprieve from the bombardment.
President Trump accused the Syrian government and its backers, Russia and Iran, of being responsible for a humanitarian “disgrace.”
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed in a joint letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin to back a cease-fire.
But the difficulties encountered by the Security Council to pass a cease-fire resolution in the face of such human suffering underscored some the institution’s impotence.
“This is not a moment for self-congratulation,” said Stephen Hickey, an official with the British mission to the United Nations. “It has taken us far too long. While we have been arguing over commas, Assad’s planes have been killing more people in their homes and their hospitals, imposing unbearable suffering.”
Some expressed hope that the truce could provide momentum for political talks and a negotiated end of the war.
“Our generation will be judged by whether we manage to put an end to the Syrian tragedy,” said Francois Delattre, France’s U.N. ambassador.
“There is a glimmer of hope today,” he added. “Let us manage to seize on this fragile moment.”
Published on the Washington Post on February 24, 2018
By Giulio Coppi
Two years into its current crisis, Yemen is torn apart by an interlinked series of conflicts with intricate and mobile front lines. These have resulted in what the UN has called “the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.” While compounded by decades of conflict, violence, and underdevelopment, the major cause of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains the conflict between the two competing governments, along with the intervention of the Saudi-led coalition.
This report assesses the humanitarian situation in Yemen, including the impact of the country’s conflicts on its healthcare system, economy, and infrastructure, as well as the resulting population movements. It also examines current humanitarian actors and responses in Yemen and in neighboring countries. It concludes by exploring several challenges and opportunities for humanitarian actors in Yemen. These include:
Enhancing respect for humanitarian norms and principles: A strong and unified initiative aimed at enhancing respect for international humanitarian law could not only protect populations at risk but also ease tensions among different communities within and outside of Yemen. The UN Security Council could help in this area by playing a more proactive role. Humanitarian actors also need to strengthen the perception of their neutrality.
Strengthening the humanitarian response: The many actors involved in the humanitarian response should improve coordination, adopt existing tools for publishing and sharing data, and explore innovative uses of technology. International humanitarian actors should also directly involve local private sector actors in humanitarian action and include local humanitarian actors in coordination and decision making. In addition, humanitarian organizations could push blockade authorities to facilitate access for both humanitarian and commercial shipments.
Looking beyond immediate humanitarian needs: While it remains critical to invest in the humanitarian response, the international community also needs to invest in prevention in order to stem humanitarian needs and prevent further deterioration of the humanitarian crisis. This includes supporting Yemen’s healthcare facilities to prevent their total collapse and addressing the economic and financial impact of the lack of liquidity. A gender-based approach to the humanitarian response is also needed, reflecting women’s roles as potential peacemakers.
Published on Reliefweb on January 30, 2018
As the conflict in Yemen passes the grim 1,000-day milestone, the United Nations is warning that if humanitarian workers cannot gain greater access and the violence does not subside, the cost in lives will be incalculable.
“As violence has escalated in recent days, children and families are yet again being killed in attacks and bombardments,' the heads of key UN agencies said Friday in a joint statement, as they once again appealed to parties to the conflict to immediately allow full humanitarian access in Yemen and to stop the fighting.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley, and UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake, painted a dire picture of what 1,000 days of brutal violence in Yemen has wrought saying the fighting has driven families from their homes, destroyed hospitals and damaged schools.
“More than 1,000 days of children recruited to fight […] 1,000 days of disease and death [and] of unimaginable human suffering,” they said, adding that the conflict has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world – a crisis which has engulfed the entire country.
Some 75 per cent of Yemen's population is in need of humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million children who cannot survive without it. At least 60 per cent of Yemenis are now food insecure and 16 million people do not have access to safe water and proper sanitation. Less than half of Yemen's health facilities are fully functional and medical staff has gone months without being paid their salaries.
“This horrific tally of the conflict's devastation reflects only what we know. In reality, the situation is likely to be worse. UN agencies do not have full humanitarian access to some of the hardest hit communities. In many, we cannot even assess their needs,” the UN leaders explained.
“But this we do know: Yemen has passed the tipping point into a rapid decline from crisis to deepening catastrophe.”
While acknowledging some progress in recent days with the first commercial fuel imports allowed into Hudaydah port, following recent commercial food imports, the agency chiefs said it is critical that these supplies are maintained, as restrictions on fuel imports have caused the price of diesel fuel to double, threatening access to safe water and sanitation, and urgent medical care.
Far too many hospitals are short of fuel for the generators that allow them to stay open. Water pumping stations serving over three million people are quickly running out of the fuel they need to operate, while the price of commercially trucked water has increased up to six-fold.
“Safe water is now completely unaffordable for more than two thirds of Yemenis living in extreme poverty. All of this threatens to undermine efforts to contain the ongoing, deadly outbreaks of diphtheria, cholera and acute watery diarrhea,” they warned.
“We remain committed to helping the people of Yemen. We have reached nearly six million people with clean water, distributed 3.7 million litres of fuel to public hospitals, treated more than 167,000 children for severe acute malnutrition,” they noted but warned: “Yet worsening conditions on the ground threaten to overwhelm our capacity to respond.”
“Yemen's families should not have to withstand another day of war, let alone another 1,000,” the UN leaders concluded.
Published on the UN News Centre on December 30, 2017.
Oxfam and 17 other humanitarian agencies expressed serious concern today over the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition’s decision to temporarily close all entry points to Yemen, effectively sealing the country off. The agencies demand that humanitarian operations are allowed to resume immediately and request clarity on the planned duration of the current closure and contingencies to allow humanitarian supplies to be delivered.
On Monday, the Coalition ordered the temporary closure of all Yemeni ground, air and sea ports, amongst other measures. Their statement said this was to address vulnerabilities in the inspection process, while maintaining the entry and exit of humanitarian supplies and personnel. The statement did not however, give any clarification on the duration of the closure, or how humanitarian assistance can be delivered.
Given the current acute food-security crisis and cholera epidemic, any delays to the restoration and expansion of humanitarian access will cost the lives of women, men, girls and boys across the whole of Yemen.
Johan Mooij, CARE Country Director, said: "While we welcome the assurances of the Coalition which has vowed the continuation of access for humanitarian assistance and personnel, aid ships in Hodeida haven’t been allowed to off-load, and at least three United Nations Humanitarian Air Assistance flights have been denied approval since 6th November. We are deeply concerned as this has a direct impact on our ability to maintain life-saving assistance. Yemen is one step away from famine, cholera is rife and provision of public services continues to deteriorate.”
In less than a day, this blockade already hiked up fuel prices in some governorates by as much as 60% as people scramble to stock up, and led to disruption of public transportation. The closure of all sea and land ports means urgently-needed lifesaving medical supplies have ceased, potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of people.
This will also substantially reduce the amount of food coming in the country – already, 1,200 tons of UN food and medical supplies have been delayed going from Djibouti to Yemen. Any reduction in imports and increase in food prices will exacerbate the existing massive hunger crisis and widespread child malnutrition.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children Country Director, said: “Supplies of food and medical aid coming though Yemen’s ports are keeping millions of children alive. It’s already been tough enough to get help in – we’ve been forced to rely on routes that are long and slow for years. But if access shuts off entirely, even for a single week, then disaster will be the result. This is the nightmare scenario, and children will likely die as a result. It is crucial that aid workers and vital supplies like food, medicine and fuel are permitted to enter Yemen freely and without delay, and all blocks are removed.”
In the absence of clarity and detail from the Coalition, worrying questions remain about the extent and duration of these measures and their expected impact on the civilian population. If this issue is not resolved immediately, we fear an already catastrophic humanitarian and economic crisis will get substantially worse.
Furthermore, the humanitarian sector alone cannot fulfil the needs of the civilian population in Yemen as we cannot replace the commercial sector’s ability to supply essential goods to the Yemeni people.
Shane Stevenson, Oxfam Country Director, said: “Yemen is the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, with 21 million people in desperate need of assistance. To prevent more lives from being lost and the needless suffering of millions, it is vital that aid is not delayed or impeded another hour. The Coalition needs to clarify immediately the measures it has taken and ensure that aid deliveries to Yemen and humanitarian operations are not affected in any way.”
Published on OXFAM on November 8, 2017.