UN humanitarian chief stresses obligation to protect civilians in conflict

16 November 2011

Civilians are bearing the brunt of conflict in several countries, the United Nations top humanitarian official said today, reminding parties to such disputes of the their obligation under international humanitarian law to respect non-combatants and to protect them from harm.

Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that the escalation of violence has limited the ability of humanitarian organizations to help those in need.

“In Somalia, the intensification of the conflict between Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, Al-Shabaab, and other armed factions, and the involvement of Kenyan armed forces threatens to increase internal displacement just as people hoped to start planting their crops,” said Ms. Amos, who is also the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, in a statement.

The escalation of conflict in Somalia had also led to a sense of insecurity in Kenya, amid fears of attacks against civilian targets there, and reduced ability of relief organizations to assist refugees in camps in Kenya’s Dadaab area, she pointed out.

Heightened tensions between Sudan and South Sudan had put millions of people at risk, Ms. Amos said, stressing the need to ensure that people crossing the border into South Sudan for safety are accommodated in areas away from the frontier.

In Sudan, humanitarian agencies must be given safe and unimpeded access to vulnerable civilians to assess their needs and provide assistance, Ms. Amos added.

In Yemen, fighting with heavy weaponry is taking place in urban areas throughout the country, putting civilians at risk and disrupting essential public services, including health care, thus exacerbating the humanitarian crisis, Ms. Amos said.

She also deplored the excessive use of force by Syrian security forces against demonstrators which has cost the lives of more than 3,500 people.

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Top UN officials stress need to boost protection of civilians in armed conflict

Top United Nations officials today stressed the need to do more to protect civilians who are increasingly bearing the brunt of the various conflicts taking place around the world, as well as enhance accountability to hold perpetrators to account.