Statement of the Yemen Humanitarian Coordinator on his visit to Amran [EN/AR]
Sana’a/New York, 25 July 2014
I travelled to Amran Governorate yesterday to observe conditions following the recent conflict, to advocate for unrestricted access of humanitarian partners to all people in need, and to seek commitments from all parties to abide by the ground rules for humanitarian action in Yemen. I was encouraged to hear all parties – including Government authorities and senior Al Houthi representatives – reiterate their support for the neutral, impartial and independent nature of humanitarian action. I now call on all parties to demonstrate their commitment by facilitating the immediate return to Amran of all humanitarian organizations able to deliver principled assistance to people in need, regardless of religious, political or ethnic affiliation, or any other criteria. I likewise encourage humanitarian partners operating in Amran before the conflict to resume their activities as soon as possible and to continue to uphold humanitarian principles in all aspects of their work. During my meetings, I impressed on all counterparts that humanitarian work in Amran – as everywhere in Yemen – has absolutely no agenda beyond the alleviation of human suffering and is based on the needs of affected people alone. I reiterate that humanitarian partners act transparently with all parties, are accountable to affected people, and are selected based solely on their technical expertise and ability to uphold humanitarian principles.
Conditions in Amran appeared calm yesterday, and local people whom I met estimated that more than half of those displaced by recent fighting have returned home, with more arriving every day. Despite these improvements, I saw signs of damage to buildings in Amran City and Bait Badi as a result of shelling and rocket and mortar attacks. Beyond the physical damage, I sensed the deep trauma inflicted on civilians as a result of targeted killings, including of women and children, and other atrocities. Although the people we met were visibly relieved that stability and security have returned to the area, recent violence has nonetheless severely impacted families and communities.
I was particularly alarmed to find that the offices of several humanitarian organizations – including the common UN premises and those of at least one NGO – had been looted during the conflict. I have urged those responsible to return the looted assets immediately to enable humanitarian actors to resume their assistance activities.
I likewise call on all parties to ensure the security of humanitarian facilities in a manner that does not endanger the independence and neutrality of humanitarian action
During my visit, I also encountered disturbing evidence of the misuse of civilian infrastructure. One school that I entered remains occupied by militants and has been converted into a detention centre, where I saw children bearing arms. In addition, Amran Hospital is still suffering from the theft of one of their ambulances and other crucial supplies. All civilian infrastructure – including schools and hospitals – must be restored to their intended purposes at once. I also called on Al Houthi representatives to immediately halt recruitment of children for military and law enforcement purposes.
In view of reports of targeted killings and other atrocities, I remind all parties that they are required to abide by international humanitarian and human rights law at all times. I further urge a speedy, thorough investigation of reports of grave rights violations in collaboration with impartial human rights organizations. In the meantime, I expect all concerned local and national authorities to create and maintain an enabling environment for humanitarian actors to carry out their activities, to support those who are most in need, particularly in those locations most affected by the conflict.
For more information, contact Mr. John Ratcliffe (Humanitarian Affairs Officer, OCHA Yemen) on +967712222853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.