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Alarming new report on the dire situation for people with disabilities in Yemen

Press Release | London, 23rd May 2022, 09:00 GMT

While the conflict in Yemen has affected the entire population, it has exacerbated existing socio-economic vulnerabilities and especially deepened the discrimination experienced by persons with disabilities across the entire spectrum of economic, social, health and civil rights. Humanity & Inclusion’s new report “Unshielded, Unseen - The Implementation of UNSC Resolution 2475 on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Armed Conflict in Yemen” paints a harrowing picture for the more than 4.8 million people with disabilities living in the war-torn country.

The government of Yemen is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and has a legal obligation to implement its provisions. But representatives from organisations of persons with disabilities report that all efforts to implement a national strategy document to promote the rights of person with disabilities in Yemen have ceased since the onset of hostilities in 2015 and that momentum for the promotion of the rights for persons with disabilities was lost.

Impact of armed violence on healthcare and humanitarian access

January 2022 saw the highest rates of deadly attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure in over three years, showing the lack of progress in protecting civilians in Yemen from armed violence. Marginalised groups such as persons with disabilities are most at risk. A respondent interviewed by Humanity & Inclusion describes that many persons with hearing disabilities have sustained conflict-related injuries as they may not hear or understand what is occurring during attacks or armed clashes.

“We, persons with disabilities, are often afraid to go outside. We live with a constant fear of getting injured since we simply cannot escape when explosions or armed clashes take place. This is a fear of every Yemeni, yet our limitations prevent us from being able to quickly get away from such hostile situations. It is a constant fear persons with disabilities in Yemen live with, and it’s holding us back from being able to do many things such as looking for sources of income.” Representative from an Organisation of Persons with Disabilities (OPD) interviewed by Humanity & Inclusion.

The war has particularly wreaked havoc on the country’s health system, wiping out 50% of its health facilities. Attacks on health facilities, both direct and indirect have been widespread throughout the conflict, yet even facilities that are not physically damaged by explosive weapons are nonetheless impacted by the damage caused by explosive weapons use to civilian infrastructure such as roads or ports. With key transportation hubs destroyed and roads damaged, the transport of medical goods and humanitarian supplies cannot be maintained.

A shocking 81% of people with disabilities unable to reach or use humanitarian services

An estimated 10 million Yemenis (around 50% of the population in need) across Yemen are living in areas affected by access constraints and, out of 21 governorates, 16 are considered hard to reach. This reality is particularly affecting the access of persons with disabilities to vital assistance. Through surveying persons with disabilities in Yemen, Humanity & Inclusion found that a shocking 81% felt that they were unable to reach or use humanitarian services.

Humanity & Inclusion’s data suggests that delays in reaching health services can lead to life-long impairments, particularly for victims with complicated injuries caused by explosive ordnance and patients with untreated chronic illness.

People with disabilities left behind in Internally Displaced People (IDP) sites

The dire situation of persons with disabilities in Yemen is strongly exacerbated by widespread displacement as well. Most IDP sites lack adequate basic services such as accessible shelter and latrines and proximity to food distribution points, while services and activities that take the specific needs of persons with disabilities into account are often not present.

Key protection assistance such as Gender-Based Violence (GBV) services are generally inaccessible to women and girls with disabilities, while teachers for non-formal education activities in camps are not adequately equipped to accommodate students with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are often also not represented in camp committees or other community governance mechanisms, resulting in their needs and concerns not being voiced towards camp management and implementing organisations.” Adrian Carrillo, Humanity & Inclusion Yemen Inclusion Technical Specialist

An environment of impunity

Although the blatant disregard for international law, including the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has persisted, in October 2021, the UN Human Rights Council voted to reject the renewal of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen (GEE), the only international and independent body investigating violations and abuses of international law committed by all parties to the conflict. This has put millions of already vulnerable lives at further risk. The rejection of the renewal of the mandate, while violations of international law continue across the country, also sent the message that those violating the rights of the Yemeni people may act with impunity with no one to hold them accountable. Data shows that the number of civilians killed or injured in Yemen almost doubled since the mandate of the GEE was suspended, from 823 civilians killed in the four months before October 2021 to 1,535 in the four months that followed. With 200 air raids and up to 716 individual airstrikes, February 2022 constituted the longest period of heavy bombing since 2018.

“I do not pay much attention anymore to resolutions such as 2475 or action plans, since there is literally no institutional capacity or judicial authority to actually implement any of the actions proposed in these documents. Even organisations fall short in implementing the provisions. Without capacity, they simply remain dead letter.” OPD representative interviewed by Humanity & Inclusion.

Although a truce was declared in April 2022, it is yet to be seen how long it will remain upheld and respected, and whether or not it will culminate in sustainable peace talks.


Notes

Interview with Yasmine Daelman, Humanitarian and Policy Advisor for Humanity & Inclusion in Yemen based in Aden and heavily involved in the production of the report.

You can access the full report here

Methodology

Humanity & Inclusion’s report, “Unshielded, Unseen - The Implementation of UNSC Resolution 2475 on the Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Armed Conflict in Yemen” provides a non-exhaustive examination of the situation of persons with disabilities in Yemen against the provisions made in Resolution 2475 and proposes recommendations to facilitate its implementation in the context of Yemen. For this purpose, both a literature review and key informant interviews with representatives from eight local Yemeni organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) were conducted, as well as talks with affected persons and INGO professionals in the field. These interviews and research took place from March to April 2022. The report also reflects anecdotal and empirical evidence from Humanity & Inclusion’s experience implementing activities for and with persons with disabilities in Yemen.

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