October 10, 2018
Today Is World Mental Health Day
As covered in Le Monde, the Doctors of the World/Médecins du Monde international network and other humanitarian actors such as Action Against Hunger, War Child, and the Norwegian Refugee Council express our concern at the continued atrocities occurring in Yemen. We believe that the entire international community bears responsibility for this conflict, as countries continue to supply weapons to warring parties in Yemen but fail to take any political action to protect civilians.
Imagine if the 19 million inhabitants of New York were subjected to incessant bombing raids, deprived of the food they needed to survive, unable to flee, and subsequently ignored by the international community. For the last 2 years, this has been the reality for the 19 million people living in Yemen in desperate need of humanitarian aid.
On April the 25th the United Nations hosted an aid-pledging conference in Geneva, chaired by Antonio Guterres, alongside civil society actors, NGO’s and institutional funders, in order to secure funding for ongoing humanitarian aid work in Yemen. The conference also acted as a platform for multiple NGO’s, including Doctors of the World, to express concern on behalf of the millions of Yemeni women, men, and children held hostage to diplomatic inaction and the violence of warring parties who ignore international humanitarian law on a daily basis.
Every day our organizations attempt to provide aid to vulnerable communities who so desperately need it, but all too often we are unable to fulfill our humanitarian obligations. In addition to the security risk our staff members face and the administrative barriers which stop us from accessing certain communities, there are also ongoing blockades of humanitarian goods, including medical supplies and food.
In a country which imports 90% of its food, the quantities of imported food arriving in the country are no longer sufficient. Although a famine has not been officially declared because we cannot access certain areas to accurately determine the need, estimates put the number of children under the age of 5 at an immediate risk of dying from malnutrition at 462,000.
This is most likely a conservative estimate. The potential closure of the port of Hodeidah increases the likelihood of the humanitarian situation deteriorating. Hodeidah port is the main point of entry for supplying food goods to the north of the country therefore it must remain open. In addition to the food crisis, the country’s healthcare workers have not been paid for months, and over half of its healthcare facilities are no longer operational – at this point the entire health system is in danger of collapse.
Finally, we have witnessed the intense and repeated use of explosives in populated areas with complete disregard for civilian life. In addition to the those killed or injured, our teams report that the large majority of communities are emotionally traumatized, suffering from both physical and psychological distress, with numerous cases of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder reported.
The international community must start making financial commitments to meet the needs of those suffering across the country.
However, unless the food blockade is lifted immediately, the bombing of populated areas ceases, and access to communities in need is made a top priority, any financial commitment will have little effect.
This conference was not simply about eliciting a financial response from the international community, but also about establishing ways in which our leaders can promote international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians in war zones. Unless, of course, they choose to bury the founding principles of humanitarian aid alongside the thousands of Yemeni people they have failed to protect.
Action Against Hunger
Doctors of the World
Norwegian Refugee Council
Save the Children