Yemen: People need more than money

April 3, 2018

On April 3rd, government leaders will gather in Geneva for a pledging conference for Yemen. Everyone, including the ICRC, hopes that donors will be generous. But humanitarians working in Yemen know that money alone will not solve the crisis.

The three long years of Yemen’s conflict have caused unspeakable suffering. Everything needed for survival is collapsing: the food chain, the health service, the water and sewer systems.

According to UN figures, a staggering 22.2 million Yemenis, out of a total population of 27 million, are in need of assistance. That is 3.4 million more than just one year ago. The conflict has caused millions to flee their homes.

At the same time, peace talks are stalled, and the conflict has become ever more complex and fragmented.

“We have a seen a peak of weapon wounded in January” says the ICRC’s director of operations for the Middle East Robert Mardini.

“In one week in January we had to treat close to 1000 people, wounded because of the fighting, and an important proportion of them were civilians. In addition to this you see many people who simply die because they cannot afford insulin, they cannot afford a dialysis session.”

Fayed Ali Mohammed is just one among millions whose life has been tragically disrupted by the conflict. He suffers from renal failure. War has made travel from his home to the dialysis centre too dangerous, and too expensive, so he camps outside the hospital.

“I sit next to the hospital and I sleep on the street outside it, this is where I live,” he says.

Fayed has not seen his family for months; without dialysis, he will die, so he must stay close to the hospital. But now, the chronic lack of medical supplies caused by the war is threatening his regular treatment.

“The dialysis sessions have been reduced because of the lack of essential supplies,” he says. “Treatment is not available and our life relies on the treatment. We are like fish, if you cut the dialysis sessions we die. We rely on God and dialysis.”

The ICRC wants to remind all warring parties that if the basic laws of war were respected, some of Yemen’s destruction could be avoided, and civilians would suffer less.

“Stop targeting hospitals, stop targeting civilian neighbourhoods” says Robert Mardini. “Stop indiscriminate shelling, stop attacking health personnel. All this will reduce the needs.”

And for donor countries arriving in Geneva there is a message too: don’t just donate money, make sure that any weapons exported to any of the warring parties are used only in line with international humanitarian law.

“Our message to states supporting parties to the conflict, warring sides in Yemen, and there are so many: they need to tie their support with clear conditions of respect of the laws of war” says Robert Mardini.”

“This is of critical importance. We know that there are important weapons transfers, this is normal in a conflict, but those transfers of weapons should come together with very clear conditions that civilians should be protected, hospitals should not be targeted. Put simply, there should not be support without compliance with international humanitarian law.”

Money is often the easiest thing to give, but for Yemen’s civilians, respect for the law, and unrestricted access for humanitarian workers, are just as important.

Facts and Figures ICRC Yemen 2017

  • The ICRC medical assistance helped treat more than 120’000 in need of emergency room stabilization care and/or surgery.

    • More than 86’300 suspected cholera cases treated thanks to ICRC support.

    • Aden ICRC-supported Al Mansoura hospital treated 8’613 war wounded/trauma emergency and performed 2’482 surgeries.

    • 3’083’548 people benefitted from water, sanitation and construction interventions

    • 511'651 people (73'093 HHs) received food and 202'423 people (28'917 HHs) received other essential goods.

    • 19'463 families benefitted from livestock vaccinations and seeds distributions

    • 1'522 displaced and vulnerable persons covered their essential needs through an ICRC supported cash transfer program.

    • 2'513 people and their dependents benefited from cash-for-work activities.

    • Some 11’000 detainees have been visited and/or assisted by the ICRC, including 1,129 who are conflict-related