Yemen’s ‘Overwhelming’ Humanitarian Need ‘Woefully Under-Resourced’, Emergency Relief Coordinator Tells Security Council, Urging Pause in Fighting

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28 July 2015
7494th Meeting (PM)

Yemen’s ‘Overwhelming’ Humanitarian Need ‘Woefully Under-Resourced’, Emergency Relief Coordinator Tells Security Council, Urging Pause in Fighting

The conflict in Yemen had brought “appalling damage” on an already suffering people, the top United Nations humanitarian official told the Security Council today, emphasizing the need to secure a pause in fighting that all parties would honour.

Such a pause would enable the international community to reach all those in need with basic assistance and urgently give time and space to seek to reach a more durable ceasefire and political solution, Stephen O’Brien, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a briefing to the 15-member body.

The death and injury of civilians continued, as did the destruction of civilian infrastructure, including homes, hospitals, schools, roads and bridges.  Health facilities had reported more than 4,000 conflict-related deaths since March — including 1,895 civilian deaths — and more than 19,800 injuries, he said, adding that 80 per cent of the population was in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance.

Further, a humanitarian pause announced over the weekend had not been respected by any party, with airstrikes and ground fighting reported in eight governorates.  Parties to the conflict continued to fail to meet their responsibilities under international humanitarian and international human rights law, Mr. O’Brien added.

The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance had increased from 16 million in March to more than 21 million in July.  The number of those facing food insecurity had increased from 10.6 million to 13 million, Mr. O’Brien said, adding that some aid agencies had begun using the term “starvation” to describe the situation of the most food insecure.

Conditions caused by the fighting had contributed to the spread of preventable diseases and more than 15.2 million people lacked access to basic health care, he said.  Commercial imports — which accounted for 90 per cent of Yemen’s food and fuel before the conflict — had decreased dramatically.  A United Nations-led inspections mechanism enabling the flow of commercial imports to increase had long been proposed and was urgently needed.

Humanitarian partners, with the expectation that the planned pause would take hold, had developed an operational plan to reach an additional 3 million people with vital assistance in the initial five-day period.  “That plan is live and ready to go now — if only we could get a pause to stick,” Mr. O’Brien stressed.

More broadly, he said, efforts to respond to the overwhelming humanitarian need were woefully under-resourced, with only 15 per cent of the $1.6 billion appeal received.  Recalling his description last month of the situation in Yemen as a looming humanitarian catastrophe, Mr. O’Brien said:  “By every test, that catastrophe has now loomed, and loomed large.”

Addressing the Council, Khaled Hussein Mohamed Alyemany (Yemen) expressed his appreciation for political efforts to find a solution to the crisis caused by the Houthi militia, as well as for humanitarian assistance led by Mr. O’Brien, whose planned visit to Yemen on 9 August was welcome.

Yemen’s Government had worked with the United Nations to observe an agreed ceasefire to allow for humanitarian access, but the rebel group had violated it.  He urged the Council to bring further pressure to the Houthis — the perpetrators of the coup in September 2014 — and take action towards the restoration of the political process.

The meeting began at 4:50 p.m. and ended at 5:05 p.m.

For information media. Not an official record.