4th anniversary of Yemen conflict HI takes a stand against indiscriminate warfare and its devastating impact on civilians
Press release | London, 25th March 2019, 12:00 GMT
Press release | London, 25th March 2019, 12:00 GMT
On its Yemen, Indiscriminate Warfare website published today to mark four years of conflict in Yemen, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) paints a disastrous picture of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The organisation condemns the widespread bombing of populated areas and the use of anti-personnel mines on a scale that has not been seen since the Mine Ban Treaty came into force in 1999. HI has helped to set up an emergency rehabilitation service for the war-wounded in Yemen, where it has treated more than 2,500 victims of explosive weapons since 2015. Of these, 300 were mine casualties. Most of the people treated sustain a disability due to their injuries and will need special care for the rest of their lives.
Testimonies reveal the unacceptably high proportion of civilians killed or maimed by bombing, explosive remnants of war, mines, cluster munitions, etc. ACLED has recorded 18,000 airstrikes since March 2015. Observers report the systematic and widespread use of anti-personnel mines in several of the country’s regions. Yemen is now one of the countries most heavily contaminated by explosive remnants of war, mines, improvised explosive devices and other weapons that constantly threaten the lives of civilians caught in the crossfire. Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 14,000 deaths and injuries as a result of explosive violence between 2015 and 2017. Of these 76% were civilians.
Maud Bellon, HI’s Head of Mission in Yemen says: "The people we are supporting are traumatised by armed violence. They are disoriented, shocked or depressed. Physical rehabilitation, which may lead to patients being fitted with a prosthesis, is provided alongside psychological support to help them accept their new situation: people are in shock when they lose a limb, and don’t always find it easy to accept their prosthesis. We always combine rehabilitation with psychological support - an activity often neglected in a crisis."
Working in the governorates of Sana’a and Amanat Al Asima, HI has treated 4,500 people affected by the conflict since it launched its operations in 2015. Of these, more than 2,500 are casualties of explosive weapons including bombs, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices.
A significant and unprecedented proportion of people treated by HI in Yemen are mine casualties: in four years, the organisation has cared for 300 casualties of these weapons banned under the Ottawa Treaty since 1999.
As mine casualties often require lower-limb amputation, to meet the specific needs of casualties, HI helped set up an emergency rehabilitation service for the war-wounded in Yemen. People injured by bombings suffer complex injuries such as open wounds, fractures, burns, loss of muscle mass and damaged nervous systems. If they fail to start rehabilitation the day after surgery, they risk serious mobility loss, often resulting in disability and social and professional exclusion, reduced income and family impoverishment.
The widespread and repeated use of explosive weapons has a domino effect. In four years, the country has collapsed into chaos: 600 infrastructures are destroyed or damaged per month, particularly health services (50% of medical facilities no longer function, while demand has surged), the weakening of the economic fabric leading to inflation and shortages, particularly of food, population displacement etc. 80% of the population now need some form of humanitarian assistance.
“As assistance is now centralised in Sana’a, thousands of civilians need to travel long distances. It takes four hours to travel by road from Al Hudaydah to Sana’a, without counting checkpoints and the risks associated with crossing the front lines. Sometimes it is impossible for people to access services.” says Bellon.
Some one hundred makeshift camps, in Hajjah and Al Hudaydah but also in the south of the country appear and disappear with the fighting. Three million people are displaced inside Yemen and there are an estimated one million ‘returnees’. “People are moving around all the time and we need to adapt to that. The problem is that, in Yemen, unlike in Iraq, for example, the vast majority are makeshift camps that can disappear almost overnight.” says Thomas Hugonnier, HI’s director of operations in the Middle East.
Alongside complex population movements, NGOs face major security and administrative obstacles that considerably limit their scope of action. “It’s vitally important to ensure the safe and neutral transportation of aid to those in need. NGOs are working very closely together to tackle the administrative assault course we all face, daily negotiations with the authorities, and so on, but that’s not going to be enough.” adds Huggonnier.
Through its "Stop Bombing Civilians” international campaign, launched in March 2016, HI calls on governments to develop a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in order to better protect civilians in conflict areas and assist casualties. The organisation is asking the general public to sign its international petition. This petition has already been signed by 463,000 people.
Interview with HI’s spokesperson in Yemen available upon request
HI works in the governorates of Sana'a and Amanat al Asima, in two rehabilitation centres and six of Yemen's largest hospitals, treating patients from across the country. It has assisted more than 20,000 people in four years, of whom 13,000 have received rehabilitation care or advice. The organisation has given out more than 21,000 crutches, walking frame, wheelchairs, etc. More than 20,000 people have been given psychological support. HI has fitted 200 people with prostheses and orthoses through its work with the rehabilitation and orthopaedic-fitting centre in Sana'a. More than 500 Yemeni health workers in Sana'a and other governorates have been sensitised and trained in early trauma response. We are starting similar activities in Aden and will soon be working in the governorate of Taizz, Hajjah and in the city of Hodeida.
Co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of Handicap International) is a charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside disabled and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.