20 July 2015 – It took less than two hours to break the humanitarian ceasefire announced by the United Nations in Yemen. It was a second attempt to break the fighting in order to spend six days delivering aid to those who desperately need it before the end of Ramadan on 17 July.
While the city of Aden has been retaken by pro-government forces, with international coalition support, the issue of humanitarian access remains. As does the future of peace negotiations, which have stalled since the Geneva talks collapsed in June.
Spiral of violence
With no immediate prospect of peace, Yemen continues to be drawn into a spiral of violence. Civilians are the main victims, caught between the fighting, air raids and chronic food and fuel shortages. Air, naval and land blockades hinder the country’s access of essential supplies and exacerbate an already critical situation.
“The second truce was violated after a few hours by all parties to the conflict and in several regions of the country,” said Arnaud Phipps, director of Action Against Hunger’s Yemen operations.
With UN Security Council pleas to respect the humanitarian pause unheeded, aid workers cannot get emergency assistance to women and children in need.
Emergency access to populations
“The humanitarian situation is deteriorating daily and aid organisations don’t have access to areas where the needs are greatest,” said Phipps. In Aden, insecurity means the city’s roads and those leading to neighbouring governorates are blocked.
Action Against Hunger teams recently tried to move some nutritional stock from Aden to Lahj, where treatment for children suffering with acute malnutrition has been interrupted for a month because we simply couldn’t access supplies. But the request to get stock there was refused by fighters: a decision that could have fatal consequences for 70 children with severe acute malnutrition status who were in our care.
Intimidation and flouting of humanitarian law and human rights
It’s not only extremely limited access to those in need that is restricting aid agencies’ work. A blatant disregard by all parties to the conflict to international humanitarian law and human rights is also putting lives in danger.
On 13 July, armed fighters entered an Action Against Hunger centre in the southern governorate of Hodeida. Gunmen checked the food, medicine and humanitarian supplies distributed by the teams. Such behaviour presents a direct threat to the security of humanitarian workers and the beneficiaries present when these things happen.
No more coalition arms sales
On 9 July the European Parliament passed the 2015/2760 resolution condemning the violence, bombings and blockade that resulted in thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 1.2 million people within Yemen.
It called on all parties to the conflict there to respect international humanitarian law and human rights, protect civilians and avoid targeting civilian infrastructure, particularly medical facilities and water systems.
This European Parliament resolution, along with the position of the European Union on the control of exports of military technology and equipment, suggest no such arms sales should be made to countries violating human rights and international humanitarian law.
What we’re calling for
Action Against Hunger reiterates its call on all parties to the conflict to facilitate humanitarian access to vulnerable populations that require emergency assistance, and to respect international humanitarian law and human rights.
Humanitarian access must be provided throughout the country, and particularly in the city of Aden, where the situation is particularly tragic given the scale and violence of the fighting that has occurred in recent weeks. We have humanitarian stock positioned there and need to distribute the food and hygiene products extremely quickly to those in need.