Yemen: Humanitarian crisis fuelled by main donor governments’ involvement in the war

Governments are meeting today in Geneva to pledge funds to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Ironically, many of these donor governments are also involved in the war, which is both driving massive humanitarian needs and obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said today. 

Conflict hampers effective aid distribution in Yemen

In Yemen, people’s access to basic services and aid is severely limited as warring parties continue to destroy the country’s infrastructure, including the health system, while their international supporters turn a blind eye.

An MSF cholera treatment centre in Abs was targeted by a Saudi- and Emirati-Led Coalition (SELC) airstrike in June 2018, the fifth on an MSF facility in the country since March 2015. A subsequent report from the SELC-appointed investigating team, established with UK government support and training, absurdly portrayed MSF as partly responsible for, rather than a victim of, the bombing.

Warring parties must be held to account for the suffering that continues to be inflicted on Yemeni men, women, and children. MSF calls on the UK government, in their unique position as a 'penholder' on Yemen at the UN Security Council, to demand that international humanitarian law is respected and health structures are protected.

Substantial gaps in primary healthcare support have left people exposed to recurring outbreaks of preventable diseases, such as measles, diphtheria and cholera. Over the last two years, MSF teams have treated millions of people for these diseases amongst a crumbling health system. 

Furthermore, the warring parties have created hurdles that prevent the fair distribution of humanitarian assistance according to humanitarian needs, with obstacles including restrictions on imports, visas, and movement permits. Meanwhile, active fighting and checkpoints continue to fragment the country, restricting the delivery of aid to many of the communities that need it most. 

These barriers to access also prevent or hamper aid organisations efforts to reach some parts of the country to identify and evaluate the needs in communities across Yemen. Even when aid does reach people, it remains highly inadequate.

The failure to protect civilians and provide adequate support to war-wounded patients is also alarming. MSF teams are witnessing residential and some urban areas becoming battlefields, with stray bullets, shrapnel, airstrikes, and landmines injuring a disproportionate number of children, women and elderly people. Those who reach our facilities seeking care often spend hours travelling on extremely unsafe roads across frontlines; we suspect many others never make it. Many of MSF’s patients passed through other facilities but were unable to get the care they needed due to lack of medical supplies or personnel.

Donor governments must pledge more than money

As the international community meet today in Geneva, MSF calls on donors, United Nations agencies and their implementing partners to reinforce medical humanitarian action and significantly increase their deployment across Yemen in order to reach more people and respond to the most critical needs. Crucially, donor governments pledging funds must work to resolve the obstacles that are preventing aid from reaching the people who need it, and to ensure that the aid delivered responds to their actual needs.

Ultimately, Yemen’s humanitarian crisis can only be resolved when donor governments end their involvement in the war and hold the warring parties accountable for their atrocious conduct endangering the lives of millions.

About MSF UK

This is the press room for MSF UK - the UK office of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

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