UN Headquarters, New York, 15 August 2022
Thank you, Mr. President.
Like the Special Envoy, we welcome the recent extension of Yemen’s truce. We hope this extension will lead to an expanded truce agreement along the lines of what Hans has just described.
We also hope the extension will see rapid progress in re-opening major roads in and around Taiz, where civilians, commercial traffic and aid agencies have for years faced intolerable movement constraints.
And we hope it will see a more comprehensive end to the violence inside Yemen.
Although fighting and civilian casualties have decreased sharply since April, they have never stopped entirely.
On 23 July, for example, shelling into Taiz City killed one child and injured ten more children. According to open-source reports, more than 150 civilians have been killed since the truce began in April.
So while we welcome the truce and its extension, we must also be clear-eyed about its limitations. Ongoing violence and civilian casualties inside the country are one such limitation.
Yemen’s massive humanitarian crisis is another. The truce alone cannot be expected to resolve this crisis, including the risk of famine that threatens some areas.
As we have said recently, three major issues are shaping Yemen’s humanitarian outlook: the economy, the operating environment for aid agencies and humanitarian funding. Let us review where these stand.
First, the economy, where alarming conditions persist.
The exchange rate is now worse than it was before the truce. All the immediate post-truce gains were short-lived, and now fewer people can afford to buy food or other essentials – nearly all of which must be imported.
Food supplies inside the country are currently fairly stable, but the food supply chain – which depends on commercial imports – remains precarious. In July, commercial food imports fell for the fourth month in a row, coming in 30 per cent below the 12-month average.
Serious concerns are looming for commercial imports bound for Hudaydah and Saleef – all of which are inspected by the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (or UNVIM) prior to arrival.
In July, Hudaydah and Saleef brought in about 60 per cent of all food imports to Yemen and about 50 per cent of all fuel imports. Commercial imports are an essential lifeline, and the Security Council has often stated its commitment to facilitating them through all ports – most recently in resolution 2624.
But UNVIM will likely have to stop work in just a few weeks. It needs US$3.5 million to pay for operations through December. This is a modest sum compared to the enormous impact of enabling Yemen’s private sector to continue bringing in the food, fuel and other goods that millions of people need to survive.
If Member States choose to let UNVIM lapse, it’s difficult to predict the consequences for commercial imports. We hope there are clear plans in place to ensure these imports continue without disruption, recalling the Security Council’s commitments on the issue.
Mr. President, aid agencies continue to deliver assistance across the country, reaching an average of more than 11 million people every month. But agencies often face serious constraints in doing so, which is my second point.
We appreciate the Government of Yemen’s efforts to work with aid agencies to address insecurity. In recent weeks, the incitement against agencies on social media and in other forums has also decreased somewhat.
In Houthi-held areas, there may now be a way forward to resolve the challenges we reported last month regarding the travel abroad of Yemeni aid workers. Discussions on women’s full participation in humanitarian action are also continuing. We will keep you informed as these discussions progress.
But despite these positive steps, aid work still remains more difficult and more dangerous than it should. Aid agencies reported 532 access incidents in the second quarter of this year – an improvement over the first quarter, but still equivalent to about six incidents every day - mostly due to movement restrictions.
Insecurity is still a problem. In Lahj, agencies have faced at least three carjacking attempts in the last two weeks. In Sana’a, Houthi authorities are still detaining the two UN staff they promised to release last November. And five UN staff abducted in Abyan in February are still missing.
We repeat our urgent call for all detained aid workers to be released right now. We also appreciate direct engagement and support on this from Member States.
Mr. President, my last point is funding for the aid operation, where there is some good news.
Last month, the United States allocated an additional $431 million to the UN response plan in Yemen – bringing total US funding this year to more than $1 billion.
This makes the United States, by far, the largest humanitarian donor to Yemen this year.
The new US contribution is expected to help the World Food Programme increase rations for millions of hungry people whose food aid was cut in recent months. It will also provide support for other key sectors.
With this contribution, the Yemen response plan is now 41 per cent funded – a 14 per cent jump since last month. We thank all donors for their support, and we urge other donors to consider increases that will help keep aid programmes running through the end of the year.
Funding gaps – particularly in chronically under-funded sectors like water, sanitation and shelter – are still a challenge. Over the last month, unprecedented flooding has affected more than 200,000 people. But agencies so far have only been able to help about 30,000 people mainly due to lack of funds.
On a related note, the UN is also still working to raise money for the Safer tanker project. You are all deeply familiar with the risks and the urgency of this work.
Several contributions, totalling $5.4 million, were announced in the last month, bringing total pledges to about $63 million. The UN needs $144 million to implement the full operational plan for the Safer – including $80 million to start emergency work to transfer the oil off the tanker as soon as possible.
Mr. President, we remain deeply concerned by the humanitarian outlook for Yemen. In taking action on all the issues I have just outlined – strengthening the economy, supporting UNVIM, advocating for humanitarian access, and closing funding gaps for the response plan and for the Safer – Member States can prevent further catastrophe, reduce suffering and strengthen resilience of millions of Yemenis.
I thank you, Mr. President.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.