UN says ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ rises in Yemen conflict

UN’s humanitarian coordinator O’Brian says that ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ rises in Yemen, blaming warring sides

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien speaks during in a meeting in Nov. 5, 2015.

United Nations' Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien warned on Tuesday that a “humanitarian catastrophe” is rising in Yemen by increasing restrictions on efforts to respond to the staggering needs of millions of people including the diversion of a UN aid ship by Saudi-led coalition forces.

O'Brien said that the war has claimed more than 35,000 casualties since March 2015 including over 6,000 deaths, at least 7.6 million people "severely food insecure," more than 3.4 million children now out of school and nearly 600 health facilities and over 1,170 schools unfit for use because of the conflict.

Yemen’s civil war is running between Saudi-led coalition forces and Iranian backed rebels since Houthis took over the capital Sanaa in September 2014, and the coalition began air strikes against the rebels in March 2015.

The coordinator expressed that he is “extremely concerned" by blaming all parties about increased restrictions on humanitarian access and deliveries.

O'Brien said the Houthis and their allies are inconsistent in allowing access to areas they control, noting that over the past week some UN agencies were given approvals but others were denied for missions to Ibb, Taiz and Saada.

He said that aid is being delivered in areas where Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is present, but movement “is extremely challenging and dangerous.”

He said access to northern governorates, where needs are among the most severe, is challenging because of coalition air strikes and fighting, especially along the Saudi border.

O'Brien said recent communications from Saudi Arabia on the safety of humanitarian workers in Houthi-controlled areas have "impacted the humanitarian community's planning, causing delays to important missions over the past two weeks."

He also urged donors to urgently support an appeal to be launched in two days for $1.8 billion for critical needs in Yemen.

The Security Council urged donors to be generous and urged all parties to fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and commercial goods including fuel for civilian purpose to all parts of Yemen, and "ensure rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access."

TRTWorld and agencies