The top United Nations relief official for Yemen has voiced grave concern over reports that “scores” of civilians have been killed and injured amid ongoing fighting in the city of Aden, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Civilians were reportedly targeted while they were trying to flee to safer areas, having been trapped in Aden with limited or no access to water, food and health care for weeks,” Johannes van der Klaauw, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yeman, said in a statement issued earlier this morning.
“People in Aden have endured extreme hardship as a result of conflict over the last six weeks and must be able to move to safer areas to seek medical and other assistance,” Mr. van der Klaauw continued. “Violence towards civilians and aid workers, and attacks on hospitals and other civilian infrastructure, must stop immediately.”
More than 1,400 people have been killed and 300,000 have fled their homes in nearly two months of fighting in the war-torn Gulf nation. Emergency relief and medical teams from abroad are struggling to fly in to scale-up the humanitarian operation to address the needs of increasingly vulnerable Yemenis.
Against that backdrop, insecurity and lack of fuel have limited access to and delivery of services. Partners report difficulty providing medical services as result of the current security situation and continued airstrikes targeting Haradh, Sa'ada and Sana'a. Food relief partners have reported they have had to suspend assistance in several districts due to lack of fuel.
In Aden, where violence has continued, casualties and the number of displaced continue to rise. According to a recent assessment, local authorities report that 98 per cent of Khormaksar district's 62,869 residents had left and that remaining families are trapped and awaiting secure conditions to leave. Mass displacement is also taking place in Al Muala and Aden City.
In his statement, Mr. van der Klaauw strongly urged all parties to the conflict to provide safe passage for civilians from areas of conflict and “to observe their duty to protect civilians in accordance with international humanitarian law.”
“I call on all parties to the conflict to provide rapid, safe and predictable access to all people in need in Yemen,” he added. “As an immediate measure, I repeat my call for a humanitarian pause, to be observed by all parties, to allow civilians to escape conflict areas and access basic services, and to enable humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving assistance.”