Yemen humanitarian pause ‘a lifeline’ for civilians trapped by fighting – top UN relief official

The MV Amsterdam berthed at Hudaydah port, Yemen, with fuel for the World Food Programme (WFP). Photo: WFP Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

11 May 2015 – The top United Nations relief official today welcomed the announcement of a humanitarian pause in Yemen, set to start tomorrow, as aid operations resume in the embattled country following the arrival of two World Food Programme (WFP) cargo ships in Hudaydah over the weekend carrying fuel, food, water, and nutritional supplies.

The humanitarian pause was announced by the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia and the United States Secretary of State on behalf of the coalition, said Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (OCHA) Valerie Amos, expressing hope that that reports of agreement to the halt in fighting by the Houthis are accurate.

“Given the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground in Yemen with hundreds of thousands of vulnerable civilians trapped in the middle of fighting and unable to access lifesaving aid it is essential that this pause materialise,” Ms. Amos added.

If the pause in fighting, scheduled to commence on 12 May, is implemented by all parties to the conflict it will enable the UN and partners to scale up operations.

“We could deliver more emergency food rations, provide medical care for the sick and injured and ensure clean water supplies for homes and hospitals. We need security guarantees and logistical support to enable us to do this,” she added.

Ms. Amos called on all those engaged in the conflict to stop the fighting and bombing and give the people of Yemen respite.

“It is vital that all parties respect their obligations to protect civilians under International Humanitarian law. A pause to allow aid in and people to flee to safety would be a lifeline,” she said.

In a separate statement from the WFP, its country director in Yemen, Purnima Kashyap, called the delivery of fuel and supplies a “breakthrough” that will allow us to reach hundreds of thousands of people in need of urgent food assistance.

“More fuel and food shipments are expected in the next few days,” she added.

WFP has reached more than 1 million people in Yemen in the past three weeks amid growing conflict that has increased hunger. Before the upsurge in fighting in Yemen began in March, WFP was regularly assisting nearly four million vulnerable people in the country.

The agency says it needs one million litres of fuel per month in Yemen and around $43 million each month to reach its target of feeding some 2.5 million people over the next three months.

In 2014, a WFP food security survey found that 10.6 million people – 41 percent of the population – were food insecure with more than five million people severely food insecure – in need of food assistance. The current conflict will exacerbate the precarious food security situation because the country imports more than 90 percent of its food needs.

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