Yemen: civilians paying the price of heavy fighting

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Five weeks into the renewed outbreak of hostilities in northern Yemen, the civilian population is increasingly bearing the brunt of violence.

Latest report on ICRC activities in the field “The tragic loss of civilian lives in Wadi Sufyan, where more than 80 civilians were reportedly killed, demonstrates that thousands of people are seriously endangered by fighting in remote areas,” said Martin Amacher, the ICRC’s acting head of delegation in Yemen.

“We renew our call on all parties involved in the fighting to spare civilians and their property.

Under international humanitarian law, all parties have an obligation to distinguish between civilians and civilian objects, on one hand, and fighters and military objectives, on the other.” The situation is becoming more precarious by the day, both for displaced people and for residents.

Scores of civilians are being killed and injured.

Many continue to flee the areas affected by the fighting in Sa’ada and Amran governorates.

Thousands more are heavily dependent on humanitarian aid.

Reaching them has become the main challenge for the ICRC.

Almost everyone who was able to leave the areas where fighting has been taking place has done so, often under very harsh conditions – sometimes even on foot.

Thousands of people have been left behind, however.

They are completely unsafe, and out of reach of humanitarian organizations.

“The people left behind are now camping in the open,” said one Yemeni.

“Those who manage to reach safer places are sheltered in public buildings, such as schools, or in camps, or they are taken in by residents of Sa’ada and Amran.” So far, 30,000 people have been registered by and received assistance from the ICRC, which is working in close cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent Society.

The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent are providing food, clean water, health services and other essentials for people in three camps – Al Ehsaa, Sam and Al Talh – that they manage jointly in and around Sa’ada city and for displaced people (IDPs) and residents in Baqim.

But thousands more remain trapped by the fighting in areas that are not accessible.

Among the stranded are pregnant women, children and elderly people, all of whom are particularly vulnerable.

“It is becoming more and more urgent that primary health care be delivered to displaced people, who lack even the most basic necessities of life,” said Andrew Cameron, an ICRC health delegate in Yemen.

“It is also extremely urgent that the injured be evacuated, but security constraints often prevent us from doing so.

When we do manage to get people out, we take them to hospitals in Sa’ada for surgical treatment of their injuries.” On 11 September, the ICRC delivered nine tonnes of medical supplies (suture materials and other items for primary health care) that are currently being distributed to primary health-care centres supported by the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent throughout the governorate of Sa’ada.

However, it took five days to get the supplies to Sa’ada, because of fighting and the overall security situation.

Over the past week, obtaining greater access to people in need has remained the main challenge for the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent.

On 14 September, six wounded people in Bani Uwayr and four in Azgool, about 30 kilometres south of Sa’ada, were given on-the-spot treatment before being transferred to a hospital in Sa’ada with the help of the ICRC.

There are currently 42 ICRC staff permanently based in Sa’ada, including five expatriates.

ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent activities Providing clean water In Sa’ada governorate, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent continue to supply 21,700 displaced people in Al Ehsaa, Sam and Al Talh camps and in the regions of Baqim, Al Mahader and Al Azgool with 414,000 litres of water a day.

In Amran governorate, more than 3,800 displaced people and 4,200 residents are receiving around 51,000 litres of water a day from the ICRC.

The ICRC is currently upgrading a water point serving both residents and displaced people in Wadi Khaiwan, Amran governorate.

The ICRC is building latrines in Sa’ada governorate.

The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent just started building four water points in the area of al-Sahn, in Sa’ada governorate.

Providing health services Medical staff from the Sa’ada branch of the Yemen Red Crescent continue to provide consultations in clinics and health units at various displaced people’s camps throughout Sa’ada governorate, from Al Azgul up to Baqim and within Sa’ada town.

Nine tonnes of primary health-care medicines (a two- to three-month supply) intended for displaced people and others in need have been delivered to the Yemen Red Crescent in Sa’ada governorate.

For more information, please contact:
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Cairo, tel: +201 87 42 43 44

See also ICRC media contacts

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