This statement has been signed by Danish Refugee Council, Médecins du Monde, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, PU-AMI (Première Urgence – Aide Médicale Internationale), Save the Children and War Child UK.
The agreement, signed three years ago today, was designed to avert catastrophic military escalation on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. However, three years on, limited implementation of key components of the agreement -including a ceasefire and redeployment of troops in Hodeida and a resolution to the situation in Taiz- means that civilians continue to bear the brunt of a brutal and ongoing conflict. Recent fighting has sparked a new wave of violence that could worsen an already dire humanitarian situation and jeopardise the chance of a successful peace process in Yemen.
To protect civilians in Yemen, today aid agencies call on all parties to the conflict to reaffirm their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including those related to humanitarian access and the protection of civilians, humanitarian and health workers. It is also critical that parties to the conflict adhere to no-target lists and mitigate damage to civilian properties and infrastructure, including mosques and other protected sites, and refrain from using such sites to launch attacks.
In mid-November, renewed hostilities along the Red Sea coast forced over 25,000 people in the area to flee their homes, seeking safe and dignified shelter. Humanitarian needs in the area are extremely high, particularly in locations of previous frontlines, which have not been accessible by humanitarian actors for more than three years. Vulnerable families are now in urgent need of essential assistance, including food, shelter, and protection. Food baskets had been provided to these areas via airdrops, but assistance has ceased since the shift in frontlines.
Vulnerable families are also facing critical protection concerns. Incidents of injuries and fatalities caused by mines and EOs (explosive ordnance) are already widespread along the Red Sea coast. As shifting frontlines force civilians into displacement, the risk of EOs and mines increases. Due to the use of public structures like schools and hospitals for military purposes, there is a high likelihood that mines and EOs are present. These sites are often used as displacement sites, putting already vulnerable recently displaced families at even greater risk.
As the conflict in Yemen heads towards its eight years, it continues to cause widespread civilian loss of life, injury, and displacement, and longer-term impacts, including the destruction of critical infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and roads, loss of livelihoods and devastation of the economy. In Tuhayta, Al Hodeidah Governorate, there is one limited health facility operating out of a private home. The conflict has destroyed schools, and children reportedly haven’t been in school for three years.
In Taiz, indiscriminate shelling continues to injure and kill civilians and destroy critical public infrastructure. The presence of active frontlines critically hampers civilian and humanitarian access. Civilians report being unable to use key transportation routes to access essential, sometimes life-saving, services. As a result, they are forced to use highly insecure roads to reach much-needed assistance. Humanitarian assistance is forced to move across active frontlines or not at all, exposing humanitarian actors to conflict and delaying aid delivery due to complex and time-consuming permissions.
The undersigned agencies reaffirm their commitments to humanitarian principles, particularly impartiality and neutrality. If hostilities continue, long overdue measures need to be put in place to ensure the protection of civilians in Yemen. It is a humanitarian imperative and our shared responsibility to ensure that lives everywhere are protected, especially of civilians who have been caught up in the brutal conflict.
We, therefore, call on the international community, including the Human Rights Council, the UN Security Council, and all other bodies with relevant mandates for international peace and security, and relevant member states to urgently engage with the parties to the conflict to:
- Immediately implement a nationwide cessation of hostilities to secure a long-overdue and inclusive peace process to bring an end to the ongoing violence. It is vital that the peace process considers the needs of civilians, including civil society, including marginalised groups such as the Muhamasheen, women and youth and their meaningful representation.
Uphold obligations under International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law, including protecting civilian populations from ongoing violence and ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and around civilian properties (houses) and infrastructure, including schools, health facilities and mosques.
Refrain from reprisal attacks, including enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention of civilians, targeting the wounded and the sick, or purposefully destroying civilian infrastructure and services and ease the process for protection programming in line with the principles of the centrality of protection.
Hold parties to the conflict accountable for facilitating unimpeded humanitarian access in areas where control has recently shifted. Full facilitation includes honouring sub-agreements previously signed with other authority structures and ensuring that all critical, life-saving support, including protection and mine clearance programming, is allowed to continue without disruption.
Moreover, we call on international donors to support the humanitarian response by:
Prioritising emergency funding for humanitarian organisations to respond to current and emerging emergency needs for displaced people in Hodeidah. Emergency funding should include increased support for EOs surveys and decontamination activities in public buildings and surrounding land.
Maintaining flexibility to support partners to re-programme assistance under existing grants to support newly displaced households while also ensuring continued support to existing caseloads.
For more information, please contact:
- Jasmin Lavoie, Media Coordinator in Yemen, firstname.lastname@example.org, +967 73 600 3397 / Whatsapp: + 1514 632 2805