Civilians in Yemen ‘willfully abandoned to misery,’ says Ban, urging immediate political solution to crisis

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9 April 2015 – Countless civilians are being “willfully abandoned to misery” in Yemen, amid a rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian crises inflamed by fighting that has “plumbed new depths,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters at United Nations Headquarters today.

“The crisis has only multiplied in recent days,” Mr. Ban, said. “Ordinary Yemeni families are struggling for the very basics – water, food, fuel and medicine. Hundreds of civilians have been killed. Hospitals and schools are shutting down – some of which are direct targets of the fighting.”

The situation in Yemen has been rapidly deteriorating since the country formed a new Government in November 2014 aimed at ending a period of political turbulence and bringing about a full transition towards democracy. The country continued to be plagued by violence and political demonstrations despite UN efforts to bring about a peaceful political resolution. Recent weeks have seen a steady ratcheting up of fighting between the Government and Houthi militias.

“Even before the latest crisis, Yemen’s overall humanitarian needs were on a scale similar to all nine countries of the Sahel region – combined. And Yemen had almost double the number of people classified as severely food insecure,” the Secretary-General added.

Attempts by the Houthis and their allies to take territory by force and undermine the authority of the legitimate government are in clear violation of Security Council resolutions and their commitments in the UN-facilitated political process, the UN chief reiterated.

Since the initial advances by the Houthis, the situation has greatly escalated through the Arab coalition military operation led by Saudi Arabia at the request of the Yemeni President. Coalition air raids and continuing attempts by the Houthis and their allied armed groups to expand their power have turned an internal political crisis into a violent conflict that risks long-lasting regional repercussions.

“The last thing the region and our world need is more of the chaos and crimes we have seen in Libya and Syria,” Mr. Ban said, stressing that UN-brokered negotiations, endorsed by the Security Council, remain the “best chance to help get the transition back on track” and preserve the country’s unity and territorial integrity.

For over two months, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Jamal Benomar has facilitated all-inclusive negotiations. Although disagreements remain on some critical issues, many others had been resolved.

“There needs to be a return to political negotiations. All parties to those negotiations must participate in good faith. There is no other solution,” Mr. Ban said.

All parties to the conflict in Yemen must adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, the UN Chief urged, as he called on all those involved in the fighting to protect civilians and enable humanitarian workers to safely deliver life-saving assistance to people in need.

“I expect Member States to do everything possible to make this happen and get the parties back to the peace table without conditions and without delay,” Mr. Ban emphasized.

Later today, the Secretary-General will travel to Panama for the Summit of Americas and from there, to Doha, Qatar, for the United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which opens Sunday 12 April and wraps up on 19 April.