What Can We Do about Yemen?

Ibrahem Qasim (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

As a result of ongoing violence in Yemen, health workers have been kidnapped and killed, health facilities have been attacked and destroyed, ambulances have been blocked, and medical supplies have been looted. Millions of people are left without access to essential health care.

Yemen is one of the countries in conflict that the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition and its members are monitoring closely. Violence broke out in early 2015 when Houthi rebels overtook the government. Saudi Arabia, viewing the Houthis as a threat in the region, created a coalition that began intervening militarily. For nearly two years, civilians have endured sustained airstrikes in addition to heavy shelling on the ground.

When the coalition compiled its annual report in March 2016, more than 6,400 people in Yemen had been killed and 30,000 injured, and the UN had determined all parties to the conflict had violated international humanitarian law. The Saudi-led coalition had treated civilians and civilian structures as military targets, and the Houthi forces had repeatedly shelled civilian areas and medical facilities and blocked shipments of fuel and vital medical supplies. Health workers had been abducted and killed, and many had fled the country.

Yemen’s health system was weak even before the conflict began. After one year of conflict, 600 health facilities were not functioning because of destruction or a lack of staff or supplies and more than 14 million people had been deprived of health care. UNICEF estimated that 2.5 million children were at high risk of diarrheal diseases, 2.6 million at risk of measles, and more than 320,000 at risk of severe acute malnutrition. In October 2016 the World Health Organization warned that the country was facing a cholera epidemic as a result of the conflict—two-thirds of the population did not have access to clean water and sanitation and less than half of Yemen’s health facilities were functional.

What can we do?

Coalition member Watchlist on Children in Armed Conflict is active in Yemen and advocates directly with the UN Security Council and the with Security Council Working Group to safeguard health care by implementing Resolution 2286 and Resolution 1998.

Join Watchlist in asking the UN Security Council to take these actions in Yemen:

·  Call for the resumption of the cessation of hostilities agreement and ensure that child protection—including preventing and ending attacks on hospitals and schools—is on the agenda for ongoing peace negotiations.

·  Demand that all parties to conflict comply fully with international humanitarian law, and additionally, consider supporting the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged violations of international law.

*Please help support Watchlist and the Safeguarding Health and Conflict Coalition protect health care from attack and share these recommendations on social media.

Read more about Watchlist’s work in Yemen.

Read more about the situation in Yemen in the coalition’s 2016 report.