Yemen: starving beneath the bombs

Yemen: starving beneath the bombs

4/23/17

This text has been published on the website Le Monde.fr on the 24th of April

Imagine the 19 million inhabitants of the State of New York, or the entire population of the Netherlands, subjected to indiscriminate bombing, deprived of the aid they need to survive, unable to flee, ignored by the international community. For the last two years, this has been the day-to-day reality of the 19 million people in Yemen in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Tomorrow, a Donor Conference will open in Geneva, chaired by the United Nations General Secretary, Antonio Guterres.

This conference offers our five organisations the opportunity to express our outrage at these lives lived on borrowed time, at the millions of women, men, and children held hostage to diplomatic inertia and the barbarity of the warring parties who flout international humanitarian law as a matter of course. 

Every day our organisations persevere in providing aid to the vulnerable populations who so desperately need it, but all too often we are able to fulfil our humanitarian remit with great difficulties. Our access to vulnerable populations is inconsistent and often hindered by the parties to the conflict. In addition to the security risk to our staff members and the administrative barriers which stops us accessing the population, there is also de facto, a quasi-blockade of humanitarian goods, including medical supplies and food, one of the pernicious consequences of the United Nations Security Council resolution 2216 intended to protect the civilian population.

In a country which imports 90% of its food, the quantities of essential goods arriving in the country are no longer sufficient. A famine has not been officially declared because we cannot access certain areas to accurately determine the needs. Estimations put the number of children under the age of five at an immediate risk of losing their lives to malnutrition at 462,000. This is most likely a conservative estimate. The potential closure of the port of Hodeidah furthers the risk of the humanitarian situation deteriorating. This port is the point of entry for supplying essential goods to the north of the country: it must remain open.The country's healthcare workers have not been paid for months, and over half of its healthcare facilities are no longer operational. The whole of the health system is in danger of collapsing before our very eyes.

Finally, we have witnessed the intensive and repeated use of explosive weapons in populated areas, in complete disregard of the fundamental principles governing the protection of civilians. In addition to the people killed or injured, our teams report that the population is traumatised, suffering from both physical and psychological distress, with numerous cases of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Make no mistake, the whole of the international community bears responsibility for this situation. The duplicity of States which continue to supply weapons whilst failing to take political action is devastating the civilian population who are caught in a trap. Tomorrow, the international community must send out a clear message by making a financial commitment proportional to the needs. However, unless the de facto blockade is immediately lifted, the bombing of populated areas immediately stopped, and access to the population made a top priority, this financial commitment will be ineffectual. Tomorrow is not simply about determining the financial response from the international community, but about establishing how our leaders will embed the protection of civilians and compliance with international humanitarian law at the heart of their action. Unless of course they choose instead to bury the founding principles of humanitarian work alongside the people they have failed to protect.

Signatory Médecins du Monde: Doctor Jean-François Corty, Director of International Operations

Signatory Action Contre la Faim: Isabelle Moussard-Carlsen, Director of Operations

Signatory Première Urgence Internationale: Hélène Quéau, Director of Operations

Signatory Handicap International: Jean-Pierre Delomier, Director of the Humanitarian Action Division

Signatory CARE: Wael Ibrahim, Country director in Yemen

  

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