Yemen: UN humanitarian coordinator ‘deeply concerned’ by failures to protect civilians

A senior United Nations humanitarian official said today he "is deeply concerned" by the devastating impact that the recent upsurge in fighting is having on civilians in Yemen and along the border the country shares with Saudi Arabia.

"In Yemen, seven people have been confirmed dead and one injured following an attack on a market in Baqim in Sa'ada Governorate," the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, Jamie McGoldrick, said in a statement issued by the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), referring to the marketplace attack which took place on 25 August.

Baqim is a district within the Sa'ada Governorate which lies in northern Yemen. Part of the governorate sits on the country's border with Saudi Arabia, where media reports indicate that attacks from the direction of Yemen have caused an unconfirmed number of civilian casualties, according to the OCHA statement. It also noted that civilian infrastructure continues to be hit and power plants were attacked across both sides of the border.

In the statement, Mr. Goldrick also said that the continued closure of Yemen's Sana'a airport to commercial flights is having serious implications for patients seeking urgent medical treatment abroad, given the inability of the national health system to treat all medical cases, particularly chronic or life-threatening diseases such as cancer.

Initial statistics from Yemen's national airline, the statement added, indicate that thousands of people cannot leave while many others remain stranded outside of the country, facing financial hardship and administrative hurdles due to expired visas.

Mr. McGoldrick called on the relevant authorities for the immediate reopening of the airport and the resumption of commercial flights into Sana'a to alleviate some of the suffering of the civilian population, strongly echoing a recent reminder from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to all parties of the utmost necessity to protect civilians and to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Also in the statement, the humanitarian official underlined that "a political solution is the only viable option to bring the safety and security that the people of Yemen deserve."

On 6 August, the UN's Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, announced a one-month break in the Yemeni peace talks, during which "the focus will be on working with each side separately to crystalize precise technical details."

On 17 August, alarmed by escalating airstrikes and ground fighting in Yemen and along the shared border with Saudi Arabia in the wake of the suspension of the talks, the Secretary-General repeated his call on all the parties to the conflict to immediately cease all hostilities.

Eight days later, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, called for the establishment of an international, independent body to carry out comprehensive investigations in the country. His call came as his office released a report on the situation of human rights in Yemen which outlines a number of serious allegations of violations and abuses committed by all sides to the conflict.

Source: UN News Centre