by the Humanitarian Coordinator
Conflict in Yemen since March has had a devastating impact on the lives of all Yemeni people and migrants and refugees. The Yemeni people are resilient, but their coping mechanisms have been stretched by years of instability, poor governance, lack of rule of law and widespread poverty. Before the recent intensification of conflict, almost half of all Yemenis lived below the poverty line, two-thirds of Yemeni youth were unemployed and basic social services were on the verge of collapse. Years of internal conflict, endemic poverty and weak institutions had left 61 per cent of Yemen’s population in need of some form of humanitarian assistance. That number has now increased to 80 per cent as a result of conflict and a drastic reduction in commercial imports.
The disregard for international humanitarian law by parties to the conflict has come with a high human toll. Over a million people have had to flee their homes due to conflict. Nearly 2,800 people have been killed – half of whom are civilians – and almost 12,000 injured. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, power stations and water installations, which are indispensable for the lives and livelihoods of the civilian population, are unacceptable, and are further impacting on their wellbeing.
People across the country are struggling to access food, fuel and medicine. Drastically reduced imports have limited the availability of these commodities, and the lack of fuel – coupled with ongoing fighting and insecurity – is preventing available supplies from being distributed to the people who need them most. Basic services are collapsing all over the country.
Nationwide, millions of people no longer have access to clean water, proper sanitation or basic healthcare. Outbreaks of deadly communicable diseases – including dengue and malaria – have already been reported. Supplies for acute trauma care are running dangerously low, and medicines for chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and hypertension have already run out.
Additional supplies of medicines and food as well as fuel to generate electricity, pump water, operate hospital generators and mill food grains, are urgently needed. Continued hostilities are generating displacement inside and outside the country, and at the same time, there have been new arrivals to Yemen of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
The needs of the Yemeni people are urgent, but the impact will be long term. Damage to civilian infrastructure, including private homes, mean that even if the conflict were to end tomorrow, it will take years to undertake the repairs necessary for basic services to resume, for urban and rural livelihoods to be restored, for internally displaced people to return to their homes and for the threat of unexploded ordnance to be mitigated and finally eliminated. The long-term impact on children is particularly worrisome. The psychological trauma alone will have devastating consequences, coupled with disruptions to education that mean that 47 per cent of Yemen’s school-aged children are now out of school. Even more troublesome is the prospect of irreversible physical and cognitive impairment of hundreds of thousands of children unless action is taken now to treat and prevent acute malnutrition from becoming chronic.
This revised Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan provides an ambitious, but achievable and targeted, plan for the humanitarian community to meet the needs of those who are most vulnerable. The plan has been prioritized to ensure a focus on protection of civilians and provision of life-saving assistance, while also recognizing specific disadvantages facing women and girls. To ensure that the revised plan can be implemented, humanitarian organizations are scaling up operations, increasing the number of staff in country and enhancing pipelines of supplies coming into the country. A formal access monitoring and negotiations mechanism is also being set up in country to work closely with local authorities and parties to the conflict to ensure that assistance can reach those who need it the most.
No matter how much we are able to scale up operations, the humanitarian response cannot compensate for commercial imports in a country of 25.9 million people. Restrictions on shipments into Yemen have meant that only a fraction of commercial imports have been able to enter the country. Commercial imports must be resumed as a matter of urgency. At the same time, we must do everything within our power to bring an end to the tremendous suffering of the people of Yemen brought about by the conflict. Humanitarian assistance can help ease the suffering, but a political solution is required to bring an end to the violence and find a formula for lasting progress in Yemen.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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