Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the humanitarian situation in Yemen
Once again, we must return to the humanitarian situation in Yemen. The situation there has become even more catastrophic following the latest escalation in combat. These alarming conclusions have been backed up at the briefing by United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’ Brien at the UN Security Council on March 10. He painted a shocking picture of the state of affairs, characterising Yemen as the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”
Combat between the sides of the conflict in Yemen, with direct involvement by the Saudi-led coalition, have already killed at least 7,500 people since March 2015, according to the most conservative estimates, with more than 40,000 wounded. Around 19 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. More than 7 million people, mostly children, are malnourished. Two million Yemenis have been internally displaced, 62,000 of them in just the last six weeks. Many of these people are unable to find shelter and are living in the open. This does not include the tens of thousands of refugees. More than 48,000 people from the coastal town of Mocha have fled in just the last two months since coalition forces began their offensive.
Coalition aircraft caused another bloody episode when, on March 10, they were reported to have bombed a market in the town of Khokha, killing dozens and wounding dozens more.
Plans to launch an offensive against Yemen’s biggest port, Hodeida, are especially worrying. Combat in this region will not only cause mass flight of the population, but will essentially cut the capital, Sana’a, off from food and humanitarian aid supply routes. There is no need to say what disastrous consequences this would have.
Airstrikes continue causing tremendous damage to Yemen’s civilian infrastructure. Schools, hospitals and transport facilities have been destroyed. Arbitrary air blockades and obstacles to shipping make it extremely difficult to get food and fuel supplies into the country. Medicines are in acutely short supply, which means that many Yemenis are dying of what are curable diseases today. The north of the country is in a catastrophic situation, with no cash supply. Public sector workers have not been paid in more than six months.
Terrorists from ISIS and Al-Qaeda are capitalising on this chaos, bolstering their strongholds in Yemen, mostly in the south of the country, and even further complicating the humanitarian situation.
But Western media and NGOs pay little attention to this situation, and indeed pass it over in silence. The West shows no interest in it within its various international forums, in strong contrast to its hyper-active position on Syria.
The Russian Embassy in Sana’a is making active efforts to facilitate the work of the UN humanitarian team in Yemen, headed by Jamie McGoldrick. It was with our effort that a secretariat was set up to ensure coordination between the UN personnel and the de-facto authorities in the capital, above all in the interests of ensuring the population’s unhindered access to humanitarian aid.
We call for an immediate cessation of all use of force, no matter the justifications for combat. It is our firm belief that the Yemeni conflict cannot be resolved by military means. The parties must return to the negotiating table, with the aid of UN Special Envoy Ismail Ahmed, with the aim of reaching a lasting ceasefire and finding a political solution to the conflict.