Ban calls for civilian protection in Yemen, urges ceasefire as fuel shortages hamper relief efforts

WHO is providing fuel to the Ministry of Public Health and Population in Yemen to address critical shortages. Photo: WHO Yemen

30 April 2015 – The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said today that he is gravely concerned about continued ground fighting and aerial bombardment in Yemen and the impact it has on innocent civilians.

More than 1,200 people have been killed and 300,000 have fled their homes in the past six weeks, and in a statement released today by his Spokesperson, Mr. Ban urged all parties engaged in military operations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.

“There are credible reports of families in Aden trapped by the bombardment and snipers targeting civilians in the street,” said the statement. “Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, humanitarian warehouses and UN compounds, are unacceptable and in violation of international humanitarian law.”

The statement said violence has severely blocked shipments of food, fuel and healthcare. All airports are closed to civilian traffic, with some even coming under direct attack, and naval shipments are being delayed. Yemen's health, water and sanitation systems, and telecommunications services are on the brink of collapse. Humanitarian operations will end within days unless fuel supplies are restored.

“The Secretary-General calls on all parties to ensure that humanitarian agencies and their partners have safe and reliable access to bring aid workers and supplies into Yemen and to deliver aid to millions of people in need,” said the statement, adding Mr. Ban's call for an immediate ceasefire. It also urged immediate resumption of fuel imports to avoid making the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in the country even worse.

Those trying to deliver humanitarian aid joined the Secretary-General's calls. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) appealed today to all parties to allow the commercial sector and aid agencies to bring urgently needed fuel and food into the country, where a severe fuel shortage is threatening the delivery of lifesaving assistance to Yemenis hit by the conflict.

“We are reaching a point where we can no longer continue to move food from our warehouses to the people who desperately need it,” said Purnima Kashyap, WFP Representative and Country Director in Yemen in a statement released today.

“This is a country where half the population are considered food-insecure, meaning that many families do not know where their next meal will come from. They cannot absorb any further shocks and it is essential that we continue to reach these families with food.”

WFP said that it has managed to reach 700,000 people with emergency food rations in seven governorates but the fuel shortage threatens to bring the operation to a complete halt.

The agency ran out of fuel earlier this week in Hudayda Governorate in western Yemen, and it is unable to carry out planned food distributions in support to conflict-affected families and communities. In all other governorates where WFP has prepositioned supplies for its humanitarian operations, fuel stocks are also running out.

Efforts are underway to bring new and urgently needed fuel supplies to the country in order to deliver food assistance, but the security situation is severely hampering those measures. WFP urgently needs more than 200,000 litres of fuel to continue distributing food supplies already in its warehouses, which are sufficient to feed 1.4 million people for one month.

“We appeal to all parties in Yemen to allow the commercial sector and humanitarian agencies to bring food, fuel and supplies to meet the growing needs of millions of people affected by the current conflict,” said Ms. Kashyap.

Yemen imports almost 90 percent of its basic food from abroad. WFP is extremely concerned that the impact of traders being unable to import food and transport it around inside the country will affect people's ability to feed their families, especially the poor and most vulnerable.

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