It is more than three years into this conflict that the civilians have been suffering and facing the deplorable consequences of the conflict. You have heard the statistics many times: more than 22 million people – 75 per cent of the population, in fact – require humanitarian assistance and protection. Three years of conflict have left 2 million people displaced from their homes; 8.4 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from; and, the worst cholera outbreak in the world occurred in Yemen last year, with 1.1 million cases. The humanitarian situation is indeed shocking, both in scale and severity. These figures represent a call for urgent action.
In my briefing today, I will focus on the humanitarian situation in Hudaydah, the expansion of humanitarian operations across the country, obstacles that the humanitarians are facing and the impact of the conflict on civilians.
Conflict in Hudaydah Governorate has escalated significantly. Earlier today, we received reports that attacks had occurred around the entrance to one of the few functioning public hospitals in Hudaydah and an adjacent fish market, causing civilian casualties. Since 1 June, violence has forced more than 340,000 people from their homes across the governorate. Most are sheltering with host communities near their areas of origin, while smaller numbers have arrived in Sana’a, Aden and surrounding areas. Sustained hostilities in Hudaydah city, interruptions to the port operations or a siege of the city would be catastrophic and must be avoided.
There is no “contingency plan” that can effectively protect civilians from dire humanitarian consequences if conflict in Hudaydah escalates, as the capacity of international organisations and their response would quickly be overwhelmed.
In addition, it is important to recall that Hudaydah was an epicentre of last year’s devastating cholera outbreak, and cholera infections in the city are currently rising. It is essential therefore to bear this in mind when considering incidents like the one that is reported today, which affect public hospital where humanitarian partners are treating cholera patients. Last week, air strikes hit water facilities in Hudaydah city and sanitation facilities south of the city. Water and sanitation lines have also been damaged in Hudaydah as forces in the city dig trenches.
As we all know, damage to health, water and sanitation infrastructure significantly increases the risks of the spread of cholera.
Hudaydah and nearby Saleef are the lifeline for the majority of imports of essential commodities of food and fuel needed by millions of Yemenis every day to survive.
I am pleased to update you that these ports remain open and operational. In fact, commercial food imports in May rose to their highest level since November 2016 and fully met requirements. However, food and fuel imports fell in June and again in July.
While keeping all ports open is critical, we are equally concerned about maintaining adequate quantities of affordable imports through these ports. To do so, the conditions must be created whereby shipping companies have enough commercial confidence to continue supplying them.
As conflict has escalated in Hudaydah, humanitarians have stayed and delivered. And we thank the Special Envoy for his recognition.
About 90 per cent of people displaced by recent violence have in fact received emergency relief packages. These packages contain food, hygiene supplies and other supplies to preserve dignity. Also, humanitarians are providing additional assistance to the most vulnerable, including food rations, cash, basic household items and shelter supplies.
Programmes also continue in Hudaydah to provide medicines, equipment and staff to health facilities; to maintain water and sanitation infrastructure; and to truck water to displaced people who cannot access piped networks.
In addition to efforts in Hudaydah, regular humanitarian programmes have expanded significantly across the country. They are working in difficult and dangerous conditions.
In June, international humanitarian efforts provided emergency food assistance to 7.5 million people – that’s an increase of 200,000 people since January. It also provided water, sanitation and hygiene services that benefited 6.3 million people – a 60 per cent increase since January.
Similar increases have taken place across other sectors. As of mid-year, about 60 per cent of the people that we are targeting with assistance had been reached, and humanitarian partners continue to work tirelessly to expand their programmes further.
Partnerships have played an important role in this expansion. This year, 169 front-line partners, including UN agencies, international NGOs and Yemeni NGOs, are working together to reach millions of people every month. Assistance is coordinated through hubs in Aden, Hudaydah, Ibb, Sa’ada and Sana’a. A sixth hub will be open soon in Mukalla.
Generous and flexible funding has also been a key to this scale-up. The Humanitarian Response Plan, which has been recently sequenced to show first-line, second-line and full response activities, has recently received more than 60 per cent of the $3 billion required.
A large part of this funding came early in the year through a $930 million unearmarked contribution from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The United States, Kuwait, the United Kingdom and Germany are among the other most generous donors so far this year.
Notwithstanding the continuous scaling up of humanitarian operations, serious obstacles persist. Inside Yemen, humanitarian personnel face numerous restrictions, particularly in areas controlled by decision-makers in Sana’a. These include delays in movements, detention of staff and supplies, attempts to influence the selection of beneficiaries and the influence over the selection of partners, and other harassment. The Yemen Humanitarian Country Team are doing a tireless and commendable job to engage decision-makers at all levels to ensure that aid is safely delivered to the people who need it across the country.
However, more support is needed to overcome these obstacles to humanitarian access, including bureaucratic impediments.
The toll of this conflict on civilians and civilian infrastructure is devastating. Incidents in which civilians are killed or injured continue to be reported with alarming regularity. I have already mentioned several recent incidents, including today’s, that damaged critical civilian infrastructure in Hudaydah and their consequences. In addition, in Sa’ada, water facilities have been hit for the third time in July, depriving over 10,000 people of access to water. Last week, air strikes in Hudaydah hit sites very close to humanitarian premises, causing structural damage. In a separate incident, air strikes landed less than 500 metres from UN premises.
All parties must respect international humanitarian law, including the obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to take all feasible precautions to avoid and minimize incidental harm. We also call on all parties not to use civilian sites for military purposes, and to allow civilians to leave conflict-affected areas safely and voluntarily.
Finally, Madam President,
All parties must seize the current opportunity for dialogue and work with the Special Envoy to achieve a lasting political settlement and sustainable peace.
Humanitarian assistance – however effective and large-scale – cannot mitigate the destructive effect of conflict on every facet of daily life. The Yemeni people have suffered for too long and they have suffered too much. An end to this conflict is long overdue.
For further details, please contact:
In New York: Russell Geekie, +1 917 331 0393, firstname.lastname@example.org
In Geneva: Jens Laerke, +41 79 472 9750, email@example.com
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.