Yemen

Statement by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths - Remarks to the UN Security Council on Yemen, 14 April 2022

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Thank you, Madam President,

As we’ve been hearing from Hans, hope has become something of a scarce commodity in Yemen.

But today, I think we may well be hopeful that we are seeing the kind of changes that could very possibly, help pave the way to a brighter future for the people of Yemen. The truce that Hans has just described is an incredibly important, an incredibly important step forward. And already, it is having a positive impact on the humanitarian situation.

Despite reports of limited clashes in a few areas, mainly in Marib and Taiz, hostilities have dropped sharply across the country. Civilian casualties have fallen to their lowest level in months – a major improvement after weeks of escalating conflict earlier this year.

More fuel ships are now arriving in Hudaydah, helping to ease severe fuel shortages. For months, those shortages have been driving up prices, depriving people of health care and other services. And this, in turn, exposed women and girls to more risks as they travelled further and further away to seek water or cooking gas.

The truce also aims to facilitate the movement of people, goods and humanitarian assistance by resuming commercial flights from Sana’a airport and working to re-open roads in Taiz and other areas, as we have heard.

Communities living near front lines – including in Taiz, where residents have suffered for years as their city has been encircled by conflict and roads blocked – would then become easier to reach. People who need to travel abroad from Sana’a for medical care or other reasons would at last, at long last, be able to do so.

And this is all good news, so long as the truce holds. And beyond the truce itself, there may be more good news on the horizon.

The US$3 billion economic support package announced at the recent Yemeni consultations, convened by the GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council], is extraordinarily welcome. This includes fuel support, development assistance and, crucially, a new $2 billion deposit in Yemen’s Central Bank – split between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, for whom should be congratulated for these decisions – and this will help stabilize the country.

And already, the rial has recovered 25 per cent of its value since this announcement of this truce. That means food and other essential goods – nearly all of which must be imported – should soon become more affordable for the people of Yemen.

Efforts to resolve the threat posed by the SAFER tanker are also progressing. The new UN proposal to replace the SAFER vessel and, in the meantime, to move the oil into a temporary vessel, has received strong support. And I think David Gressly was here in New York recently, briefing members of the Council informally.

This work can begin in May, if we can raise the funds, about $80 million, I believe, that is needed.

We are also, as we have heard from Hans, hopeful that the new Presidential Leadership Council, may help resolve fragmentation that has, at times, created challenges for aid agencies. We join Hans in looking forward to this new Council’s engagement in efforts to find a peaceful, sustainable solution to the conflict. And our thoughts are with Rashad al-Alimi in his new leadership role.

I urge the parties, also, to seize the many opportunities offered by the current moment. And, of course, like others, I call on the Council and other Member States to use all avenues to support these efforts.

However, Madam President,

Despite the hope we have for tomorrow, the fact remains today that millions of people in Yemen still urgently need humanitarian assistance to stay alive.

Our partners are doing everything they can to help. This year, aid agencies are seeking just shy of $4.3 billion to assist 17.3 million people. We saw the launch the other day.

The pledging event raised $1.3 billion in pledges, and we’re glad to note additional pledges, including $300 million from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, have been announced since then. But we’re still, obviously, short of money.

I want to thank all our donors for stepping up, especially those, like yourselves and the European Union and the United States, who have increased their support for Yemen, even in these very difficult times, and I think that’s an extraordinary sign of solidarity.

Looking ahead, of course, we will need more. You can expect that from me. Funding remains the biggest challenge to the response. There is a serious risk that core programmes across sectors, including food aid, water, health care and support for the displaced, will keep scaling down – and we’ve heard about that in these briefings before – and eventually stop if funds don’t arrive.

Allowing the aid operation to collapse would run directly counter to the very positive momentum that I think we’re right to honour and celebrate today. So, we’re going to do all we can to work with donors from our side to help ensure that these life-saving programmes survive.

There is an Inter-Agency Humanitarian Evaluation for Yemen ongoing. It’s been under way for the last eight months, and it’s a mega process, and I think that will be a major help to get us all to understand the way in which humanitarian assistance is delivered, and to some extent counter, or perhaps in some cases confirm, some of the comments made that we’ve heard about the diversions of aid.

I’m hoping that report will be out in June, and of course, we’ll report it here [in the Security Council]. It will advise how to do our business, and it will, I think, strengthen the relationship we have with stakeholders.

We still continue to face serious access challenges – Yemen hasn’t changed completely – and attempted interference. Last year, half of all people in need lived in areas affected by access constraints, primarily as a result of bureaucratic impediments, more than other factors.

They particularly affect female humanitarian workers and certain types of programming that are essential for the well-being and safety of women and girls – always the most vulnerable, always at the edge of any such impediments.

But there have also been some improvements in this regard. On the West coast, for example, a new agreement with local security forces is helping to facilitate humanitarian movements through the Dhubab checkpoint, which has been a long-standing objective.

And this year’s humanitarian needs analysis is based on assessments that collected new data – incidentally we said this in the launch – from all 333 districts across Yemen. So, the basis upon which humanitarian priorities are made is much more solid than perhaps in years gone by.

I continue to call on the parties to do everything possible to facilitate access to people in need, in line with obligations under IHL [international humanitarian law]. And we must also address challenges to the safety and security of humanitarian workers. And in this connection, five months after their arrest – if that’s the right word – in Sana’a, two UN staff detained by the Houthi authorities remain in custody – we have discussed it here before – in contravention of UN privileges and immunities. Despite past promises to release them, they have not been released.

We’re also continuing to make efforts to secure the release of five UN staff kidnapped, if you remember, by armed men in Abyan in February. I can’t imagine what it’s like for them and their families – they have now been held by their abductors for more than 60 days in very grave conditions. So, we’re very concerned about the news of recent kidnappings.

However, I said at the beginning of my statement that I am hopeful, and I’ve often been accused of being too hopeful. But it’s true in this case, and Hans has described it, I think, vividly, the possibilities and the hopes that we must now have, and the opportunities that we must now seize.

It is an extraordinary moment and, like him, I pay tribute to those who’ve decided to make this moment happen, and to be sure that from our side, we will stand in solidarity with them as they seek to make this truce a permanent future.

Thank you very much.

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