Women, children, men are dying every day in Yemen. This has to stop

Speech by Gilles Carbonnier, vice-president, on behalf of the ICRC president

26 February 2019

I take the floor today on behalf of the ICRC, IFRC and the National Societies that are part of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, one of the main humanitarian actors on the ground in Yemen.

As the conflict enters its fifth year, the weight of the humanitarian crisis has become unbearable. Almost every aspect of people’s daily life has been impacted with 80% of the population in need of some humanitarian aid.

Restrictions on imports into Yemen, as a result of the conflict and the difficulty moving within the country has slowed down the import of medicine and food. 

Every day, parents across Yemen are forced to make the impossible choice between saving their sick children and feeding their healthy ones.

Today I remind all parties of their obligations to allow the free flow of goods and humanitarian aid for the civilian population in need. At the origin of this disaster stands the disrespect of fundamental humanitarian laws and principles by the parties to the conflict.

Humanitarians in Yemen are under fire: over the last four years, ten Yemen Red Crescent Society volunteers and three ICRC staff members were killed while carrying out their duties. More than 160 health structures have been attacked and partly or entirely destroyed.

Medical staff and facilities, first responders and infrastructure essential to the survival of civilians, as well as humanitarian workers are not a target and must be protected.

Parties to the conflict also have an obligation to minimize the impacts of this brutal war on civilians.  Warring parties must refrain from targeting civilians, and civilian infrastructure and services.

The laws of war must be respected. States with an influence on the parties also have a responsibility to bring pressure for better respect of international humanitarian law by the parties.

A crisis of this magnitude demands a massive response.  

The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has a long-standing presence, acceptance, and access to difficult to reach areas. We have been able to assist hundreds of thousands of people. The Yemen Red Crescent Society works across Yemen, especially in first aid, primary health care, evacuating the wounded, managing human remains and delivering food and household items to those in need.

The ICRC is currently completing the necessary arrangements in preparation of the potential release of conflict-related detainees.

If this takes place it will bring much needed comfort to many families, who lost contact or have been separated from their loved ones due to the conflict. It is a step in the right direction towards the building of mutual trust between the parties and it is a step which lies in the hands, authority and discretion of the parties and which is needed now. We stand ready to help them in the implementation of an agreement.

The welfare for all those detained in relation to the conflict is a concern for the ICRC: they must be treated humanely and allowed to maintain links to their families.

Above all, serious and concerted efforts need to be made to find a political resolution to this conflict.

If a political solution isn’t found soon, the consequences of the conflict in Yemen will continue to reverberate far beyond the initial tragedy of violence. Women, children, men – are dying every day. This has to stop.