ICRC Pres­i­dent leaves Ye­men, is­sues ur­gent plea for help

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Iam leav­ing Ye­men pro­foundly con­cerned for the plight of its peo­ple. The cholera out­break re­mains alarm­ing. With the rainy sea­son ap­proach­ing, we ex­pect more than 600,000 cases by the end of the year. This is un­prece­dented. This out­break is man­made. It is a di­rect con­se­quence of more than two years of war­fare. The health care sys­tem has col­lapsed, with peo­ple dy­ing from eas­i­lytreat­able chronic dis­eases. Key ser­vices like garbage dis­posal have ceased to func­tion, as I saw all too clearly in Taiz.

Un­less the war­ring par­ties im­prove their re­spect of the laws of war, I am afraid we must ex­pect more epi­demics in the fu­ture. Ye­me­nis are re­silient peo­ple, but how much more must they re­sist? We have seen, in Syria and else­where, how two years of con­flict turns into six, ten. Ye­men’s fate can be dif­fer­ent, but I see few signs of hope. The suf­fer­ing of its peo­ple only grows in in­ten­sity. I’ve met fam­i­lies forced to make im­pos­si­ble choices about whether to buy bread, wa­ter or medicine for their chil­dren.

Thou­sands of peo­ple have been de­tained by par­ties to the con­flict, lan­guish­ing in prison un­able to con­tact their loved ones. Yes­ter­day, some of their fam­i­lies protested out­side our of­fices in Sana’a, de­mand­ing answers. Their well­be­ing is our pri­or­ity, but to help them we must be al­lowed to visit de­tainees. I’ve seen for my­self this week how war is de­stroy­ing cities, com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies.

This, then, is an ur­gent plea for be­hav­iours to change. It is im­per­a­tive that par­ties to the con­flict stop the at­tacks on hos­pi­tals, and elec­tric­ity and wa­ter plants. Oth­er­wise, more tragedy will en­sue. The war­ring par­ties, in­clud­ing coali­tion states, should take con­crete steps, now, to al­le­vi­ate the sit­u­a­tion. They must Stop hold­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion hostage to po­lit­i­cal ends. In­stead, fa­cil­i­tate the flow of aid - and es­sen­tial sup­plies like medicine - into and across Ye­men.

Guar­an­tee ac­cess for hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies to the most vul­ner­a­ble pop­u­la­tions. Give the ICRC reg­u­lar ac­cess to all con­flict-re­lated de­tainees. We re­ceived en­cour­ag­ing com­mit­ments from both sides this week, and hope th­ese will ma­te­ri­al­ize in the weeks to come. Ease im­port re­stric­tions so eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity can re­sume. More­over, oth­ers pro­vid­ing sup­port to the war­ring par­ties in Ye­men have the re­spon­si­bil­ity for mak­ing sure the laws of war are re­spected.

Hu­man­i­tar­ian fund­ing is more needed than ever. But the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity must go a step fur­ther. It must ac­tively seek out so­lu­tions to this enor­mous cri­sis, and wield in­flu­ence over the be­hav­ior of war­ring par­ties as a mat­ter of urgency. The ICRC has dou­bled its Ye­men bud­get this year to over USD100 mil­lion. We will con­tinue to fight cholera and do all we can to help the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in Ye­men. I call on oth­ers to step up their ef­forts and do like­wise. The peo­ple I met this week in Ye­men are count­ing on us to come to their aid. Let us prove to them that we care about their plight. —State­ment by Peter Mau­rer, Pres­i­dent of the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross

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