المبعوث الدولي لليمن: الأزمة الانسانية وشبح المجاعة من صنع الإنسان وكان من الممكن تفاديهما

30/5/2017

قال إسماعيل ولد الشيخ أحمد المبعوث الخاص للأمين العام لليمن إن العنف مستمر على عدة أصعدة، وتتواصل معه معاناة الشعب اليمني.

وأضاف أن الأعمال القتالية تتركز على الساحل الغربي لمحافظة تعز كما يتواصل العنف في محافظة حجة والمنطقة الحدودية بين اليمن والسعودية، فيما أصابت الغارات الجوية مناطق أخرى عديدة في اليمن.

جاء ذلك في كلمة ولد الشيخ أحمد في الجلسة التي عقدها مجلس الأمن الدولي للاطلاع على تطورات الأوضاع السياسية والإنسانية في اليمن.

“مع بداية شهر رمضان المبارك، نذكر أن هناك سبعة ملايين يمني ويمنية مهددون بخطر المجاعة إن لم تتوقف الحرب. ربع اليمنيين غير قادرين على شراء المواد الغذائية الأساسية. نصف المجتمع اليمني لا يحصل على مياه صالحة للشرب، أو على أبسط مستلزمات التعقيم والنظافة وهذا يساهم في انتشار الأمراض المعدية. فانتشار داء الكوليرا مؤخرا أدى الى ما يزيد عن 500 حالة وفاة وآلاف حالات الإصابة المشتبه بها.”

وأضاف ولد الشيخ أحمد أن تراجع الخدمات الصحية ساهم في الانتشار السريع لمرض الكوليرا. وقال إن اليمنيين لا يموتون فقط من الحرب المستمرة، انما يموتون أيضا بسبب انعكاساتها. وأضاف أن نقص السيولة النقدية وانقطاع مصادر رزق اليمنيين يمنعهم من الحصول على الخدمات الصحية التي هم بحاجة اليها.

وأضاف في إحاطته لمجلس الأمن الدولي:

” تمكنا حتى الآن من منع عملية عسكرية على الحديدة. إن امتداد القتال إلى المدينة، لو حصل، لأدى الى خسائر لا تحصى في الأرواح والبنى التحتية وإلى منع دخول الأدوية والمواد الأساسية عبر ميناء المدينة. ولا شك أن لذلك وحده نتائج وخيمة تزيد من معاناة اليمنيين.”

وأشار المبعوث الخاص إلى أنه كان واضحا للغاية خلال لقاءاته مع الحكومة اليمنية والقيادات السياسية في صنعاء، إذ حث الجميع على التوصل إلى تسوية للوضع في الحديدة.

وأعرب ولد الشيخ أحمد عن الأسف لعدم حضور الوفد المفاوض لأنصار الله والمؤتمر الشعبي العام التباحث بتفاصيل الحل التفاوضي الذي يشمل ركائز أمنية واقتصادية وإنسانية، تسمح باستغلال المرفأ لإدخال المواد الإنسانية والمنتجات التجارية على أن تستعمل الإيرادات الجمركية والضريبية لتمويل الرواتب والخدمات الأساسية بدلا من استغلالها للحرب أو للمنافع الشخصية.

وقال إن المقترح الذي تقدم به لتجنب الاشتباكات العسكرية في الحديدة يجب التفاوض عليه بموازاة اتفاق آخر يضمن دفع الرواتب لكل موظفي الدولة في كافة المناطق اليمنية.

وذكر أن عدم الحصول على الرواتب يؤدي لازدياد نسبة الفقر المدقع، ووجه الدعوة مرة أخرى لجميع الأطراف للتباحث في هذا الاقتراح وبدون أي تأخير. وجدد القول إن دفع الرواتب لن يكون ممكنا إلا بالاتفاق بين الأطراف اليمنية بما يتطلب تعاونا جديا وبناء بدلا من إلقاء اللوم على الأمم المتحدة.

وأعرب المبعوث الخاص عن القلق إزاء التقارير الواردة من اليمن عن أعمال قمع الإعلاميين والناشطين الحقوقيين والمجتمع المدني، الأمر الذي وصل في بعض الأحيان الى التحرش والضرب والاعتقال القسري والمحاكمات العشوائية.

وأكد ولد الشيخ أحمد أهمية الجهد الجبار والأساسي الذي تقوم به السيدات اليمنيات للمساهمة في حل النزاع ووضع توجه نحو السلام المستديم والمصالحة الوطنية بالرغم من الجو السياسي المشحون بالعنف في البلاد والذي يؤثر على سلامتهن.
وأضاف ولد الشيخ أحمد:

“أطلب من هذا المجلس الموقر حث الأطراف على التعاون المباشر مع الأمم المتحدة للتباحث حول كيفية إنهاء النزاع ووقف هدر الدماء وعدم تعريض المواطنين للمجاعة والأمراض. إن الأزمة الانسانية وشبح المجاعة هما من صنع الإنسان وكان من الممكن تفاديهما بينما يواصل أطراف النزاع أخذ البلاد الى الهاوية وغير مكترثين بآلاف المواطنين الذين يخسرون حياتهم علما بأن وحدة الصف في المجتمع الدولي لمسار الأمم المتحدة للسلام ساهمت في توضيح الرؤيا للمرحلة المقبلة في التاريخ اليمني.”

وفي ختام كلمته دعا المبعوث الدولي إلى تذكر آلاف اليمنيين واليمنيات الذين خسروا حياتهم دون أي سبب أو ذنب، وملايين اليمنيين الذين يتعرضون للموت في كل لحظة نتيجة مسببات يمكن تفاديها.

وتلخصت دعوته في القول “كفى نزاعات على السلطة وليكن النزاع من أجل اليمن وبناء وطن حقوق أبنائه محترمة ومحفوظة واقتصاده مستقر ومؤسساته الحكومية فعالة، وطن لليمنيين، كل اليمنيين، كما يستحقه اليمنيون”.

Peacekeeping is cost effective, but must adapt to new reality By António Guterres

When I entered the United Nations Secretariat building for the first time as Secretary-General in January, my first act was to lay a wreath honoring more than 3,500 United Nations staff who died in the service of peace. Later that same week, two Blue Helmets were killed in the Central African Republic, where they were working to prevent violent confrontations between communities from descending into mass killings. United Nations peacekeepers place themselves in harm’s way every day, between armed groups that are trying to kill each other or to harm civilians.

Countless lives have been saved and improved by UN peacekeeping over the past seventy years; countless families ravaged by war have been given a new start. Independent research has shown the worth of peacekeeping: it prevents the spread of violence; and it typically reduces the numbers of civilians killed by more than 90 percent, compared to before the deployment.

We also know peacekeeping is cost-effective. The UN peacekeeping budget is less than half of 1 percent of global military spending, and is shared between all 193 UN Member States. US studies show that UN peacekeeping missions are an estimated 8 times more cost-effective than when the US acts alone. That investment pays off many times over when we consider the economic growth and prosperity that follow from increased stability and security after successful peacekeeping missions.

In our interconnected world, the emergence of global terrorism means that instability anywhere is a threat everywhere. United Nations peacekeeping operations are on the frontlines of our efforts to prevent the emergence of lawless regions where insecurity, transnational crime and extremism can flourish. They are an investment in global peace, security and prosperity.

Our missions have contributed to a legacy of stability, development and economic growth from El Salvador to Namibia, and from Mozambique to Cambodia. Fifty-four operations have completed their mandates and closed; two more, in Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, will do so in the months ahead.

While the United Nations is facing up to the challenges and shortcomings of our peacekeeping efforts, we should also recognize the successes of our mission for peace.

The Central African Republic was facing the threat of genocide when peacekeepers arrived two years ago. Today, the country has elected a new government in a peaceful and democratic process, and is struggling to move towards peace and stability, disarmament and the rule of law. Our mission, MINUSCA, is providing crucial support to reduce the threat posed by armed groups, but the situation remains challenging. It is frightening to imagine the tragic consequences if peacekeepers had not been there.

In South Sudan, UN peacekeepers are sheltering more than 200,000 civilians who fled when their homes were destroyed by the fighting. As famine stalks the country, UN peacekeepers are providing security for humanitarian agencies to deliver lifesaving aid.

Peace in our world may seem like an abstract concept. But peace on the ground depends on gruelingly hard work, every day, under difficult and dangerous conditions. The world relies on United Nations peacekeepers to go where others cannot and will not, despite the many obstacles they must confront.

Too often, United Nations peace operations face a gap between our goals and the means we have to achieve them. In many places, peacekeepers are deployed where warring parties show little commitment to peace. Our missions themselves are increasingly targeted by parties to conflict and violent extremists.

Dealing with this new reality requires a serious strategic reform on our part, based on an analysis of the mandates and capacities of our missions and our partnerships with governments and others. We must adapt peace operations to the dangerous and challenging environments they now face.

We have already made reforms that have reduced costs significantly and given us greater flexibility to deploy peacekeepers at short notice. But more remains to be done. I am determined to work with governments, regional organizations and other partners to make sure peacekeeping has the tools and rules it needs.

United Nations peacekeeping has been tarnished in recent years by appalling cases of sexual exploitation and abuse that are an outrageous violation of everything we value. Tackling this scourge is a priority for the whole United Nations system. I have presented a plan to all UN Member States that is aimed at ending impunity, and will create victims’ rights advocates in our peacekeeping missions and at UN headquarters. I intend to mobilize world leaders around these critical steps.

When people around the world are asked about their priorities, from New York to New Delhi, from Cairo to Cape Town, they give the same response. They want safety and security, to raise their children in peace and give them education and opportunities to shape their future.

United Nations peacekeepers are one of the ways in which we deliver on that universal aspiration and make the world safer for everyone.

* Mr. António Guterres is the Secretary-General of the United Nations

Note to Correspondents: UN Special Envoy to Yemen Concludes Visit to Sana’a

24 May 2017, Sana’a

The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, concluded today a three-day visit to Sana’a where he met with political leaders from Ansar’Allah and the General People’s Congress and Representatives of other political parties. The talks focused on possible agreements which would to prevent the spread of military activities to Hudeidah and practical ways to ensure the resumption of salaries to all Yemeni civil servants nation-wide.

During his visit, the Special Envoy met as well with members of the Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security and representatives of civil society organizations to discuss current political challenges and security concerns in addition to the economic crisis and recent outbreak of cholera. In a meeting with Yemeni youth, the Special Envoy discussed mechanisms for greater youth contribution to international efforts to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict in addition to possible solutions to reopen Sana’a International Airport and prevent further deterioration of the economic and humanitarian situation.


At the end of his visit, the Special Envoy expressed his deep concern regarding the grave attack on his convoy while traveling from the airport to the UN compound on 22 May. The Special Envoy reminded the parties that it is the responsibility of the local authorities to ensure the safety of all UN personnel in the country and urged them to investigate the incident, hold those responsible to account, and prevent any such incidents in the future.  The Special Envoy indicated that the incident increased his determination to continue with his efforts to find a negotiated political settlement that serves the best interests of the Yemeni people.


The Special Envoy’s visit to Sana’a, follows visits to Saudi Arabia and Qatar where he met with government officials as part of his efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Yemen. He also met with senior World Bank officials in order to support the World Bank – UN collaboration to address the growing food insecurity and economic crisis in Yemen.
 

STATEMENT TO THE SECURITY COUNCIL OPEN DEBATE ON THE PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS IN ARMED CONFLICT

New York, 25 May 2017

Thank you for this opportunity to address the critical issue of protection of civilians in armed conflict.

During my ten years as High Commissioner for Refugees, I saw the tragic results of our failure to protect civilians caught up in conflict, in refugee camps and settlements that I visited all over the world. I heard countless horrific stories and met many of the women and girls, men and boys who fled for their lives. Their suffering is incalculable, as is the wasted human potential they represent.

But despite our efforts, civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict around the world.

In Syria, the Commission of Inquiry has documented relentless attacks and sieges that show no signs of abating. In South Sudan, horrendous abuses continue as parties to the conflict target civilians including aid workers. In Yemen, civilians are trapped and targeted by all sides.

Attacks against humanitarian personnel and supplies continue, putting national staff at particular risk. The deliberate denial of access to aid and the abuse of bureaucratic restrictions are becoming more prevalent in conflict zones. Suffering is pushed to unbearable limits when civilians are deprived of food and healthcare in sieges that can last months, or in some cases, years.

Cities like Aleppo, Juba and Mosul have become death traps, while the destruction of housing, schools, markets, hospitals, and vital infrastructure will affect generations to come.

Attacks on hospitals and medical staff, and the removal of medical supplies from humanitarian convoys, are symptoms of a continued grave disregard for international law and the protection of civilians.

Endemic sexual violence including rape, abduction, human trafficking, sexual slavery and forced marriage contributes to the disproportionate suffering of women and girls in conflict. Women are particularly at risk in urban warfare, during house searches and operations in residential areas and at checkpoints.

This brutality has forced unprecedented numbers of civilians to flee in search of safety. More than 65 million people are displaced by conflict, violence and persecution worldwide, two-thirds of them within their own countries.

These unrelenting attacks on civilians, coupled with lack of access to aid, are also playing a major role in creating conflict-driven famines that threaten 20 million people in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

One year ago, the Security Council took specific action to improve the protection of medical care during conflict, by adopting resolution 2286. In August, my predecessor submitted recommendations that I fully endorse, for the swift implementation of this resolution by Member States and other parties to conflict.

These developments created hope of an improvement in the lives of millions of people affected by war and violence.

But on the ground, little has changed. Attacks against medical workers and medical facilities continue. No one is spared.

According to the World Health Organization, attacks on medical care including hospitals, doctors, ambulances, and on the wounded and the sick took place in at least 20 countries affected by conflict in 2016. In most of these places, fragile medical systems were already at the breaking point as staff struggled to treat huge numbers of people. In most cases, no one was held accountable.

In Syria, Physicians for Human Rights has documented more than 400 attacks on medical facilities since the conflict began. More than 800 medical staff have been killed.  

In Yemen, just a few months after the adoption of resolution 2286, 15 people including 3 medical staff were reported killed when a hospital was hit in an airstrike – even though the roof of the building was clearly marked and the GPS coordinates had been shared with all parties.

In Afghanistan, the number of reported attacks against health facilities and personnel almost doubled in 2016 compared with 2015.

These attacks are evidence of a broader trend: parties to conflict are treating hospitals and health clinics as targets, rather than respecting them as sanctuaries.

This goes against the spirit of the Geneva Conventions, the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian law, and our basic humanity.

These attacks not only cause immediate suffering to patients, medical workers and their families. They deprive entire communities of essential healthcare, making them uninhabitable and contributing to the global displacement crisis.  

In Syria, more than half of all medical facilities are closed or are only partially functioning, and two-thirds of specialized medical personnel have fled the country.

In South Sudan, after years of attacks on medical facilities, less than 50 per cent are functional in areas affected by conflict. This severely restricts the services they can provide.

Resolution 2286 and the Secretary-General’s recommendations provide an important platform to enhance respect for the norms of international humanitarian law.

What is needed now is action that will turn these words into reality.

There is some progress. Switzerland and Canada have gathered an informal group of States to support implementation of Resolution 2286.

Several Member States are in the process of reviewing their domestic laws and policies to strengthen implementation.

In some conflict zones, parties to conflict and national authorities are discussing de-confliction arrangements, and are making credible efforts to investigate incidents.

The United Nations, for its part, is improving data collection so we can understand patterns and work to change them. The World Health Organization is consolidating and sharing information on attacks that obstruct access to medical care.

I welcome these efforts and thank the civil society organizations that have played such an important role in driving them. I urge all to use these as a basis for progress.  

More broadly, there are three clear ways to improve the protection of civilians in armed conflict:

First, we must ensure greater respect for international humanitarian and human rights law.

I urge parties to conflict to take concrete steps to limit harm to civilians in their military operations, as they are obliged to do under international law.

And I call on all Member States to use their influence to promote respect for international law and ensure accountability for violations.

I urge those engaged in arm transfers to show greater responsibility and consider the potential consequences of those sales, for human lives and for our common security.  

And I call on all to support the international accountability mechanisms that complement national efforts, including the International Criminal Court.

Second, we must step up the protection of humanitarian and medical missions, by implementing my predecessor’s recommendations on resolution 2286. Many of these measures can and should be extended to protect other humanitarian actors – and all civilians.

We must also prioritize the protection of civilians in UN peace operations, and ensure that missions have the capacity to deliver their mandates. The Security Council has a central role to play here. I call on all Member States to endorse the Kigali principles on the Protection of Civilians as an urgent priority.

Third, we must do more to prevent forced displacement and find durable solutions for refugees and internally displaced people. We need a strong and comprehensive agreement to reestablish the integrity of the international refugee protection regime, in line with international refugee law, and we must commit to action on the plight of the internally displaced.  

We must also tackle the causes of displacement. That means addressing the root causes of conflicts by investing in inclusive and sustainable development, promoting all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – and the rule of law, strengthening governance and institutions, and enhancing mediation capacity, from communities to national governments.  

No one is winning today’s wars; everybody is losing. I appeal to all leaders, parties to conflict and those with influence to bring these raging conflicts to an end, and to do all in their power to prevent new ones from erupting.

Preventing and ending conflict is my first priority.  

I call on you all to make it yours, for the sake of the millions of civilians who are suffering around the world.

Thank you very much.

STATEMENT BY THE HUMANITARIAN COORDINATOR IN YEMEN MR. JAMIE McGOLDRICK ON THE URGENT NEED FOR FUNDING TO HALT THE SPREAD OF CHOLERA

Sana’a, 24 May 2017
Cholera continues to spread at an unprecedented rate throughout Yemen affecting men, women, and children who have for more than two years withstood the consequences of a conflict that is collapsing institutions and social safety nets. With urgency I appeal to United Nations Members States for financial and political support to help avert what is sure to be an additional and devastating blow to Yemen.
In the last three weeks, health authorities have reported over 35,500 suspected cholera cases, a third of whom are children, and 361 associated deaths in 19 of 22 governorates.
Malnutrition and cholera are interconnected; weakened and hungry people are more likely to contract cholera and cholera is more likely to flourish in places where malnutrition exists. Seventeen million people in Yemen are food insecure, including 462,000 children in the grip of acute malnutrition. Seven million people in Yemen face the possibility of famine and now over one hundred thousand people are estimated to beat risk of contracting cholera.
The speed at which cholera is spreading among the population exceeds the capacity of the health system to respond given its weakened state after more than two years of conflict, import restrictions and the lack of regular salary payments to health workers. Hundreds of thousands of people are at a greater risk of dying as they face the ‘triple threat’ of conflict, starvation and cholera.
Building on their presence in all 22 governorates across the country, national and international humanitarians are valiantly doing everything they can to prevent and treat cholera. However, they are doing so while facing a worst-case scenario – the majority of health care centers are closed, those that are open have limited staff and supplies, water and sanitation services are unable to provide clean water to the population, and humanitarian funds available to cover the existing institutional gaps and thwart the spread of the disease are meager.
Humanitarians are seeking US$55.4 million to prevent and treat cholera at the national, governorate and community level in the next six months. However, every day that funding is delayed the outbreak affects more people and more resources are needed to control it.
Cholera is preventable and treatable and no life should be lost to this disease. Humanitarians are acting and responding and we now need UN Member States to please help us by providing new funds and by ensuring that all funds pledged during the High Level Pledging Event in Geneva are made effective without delay.

Senior UN official appeals for aid to stop ‘unprecedented’ spread of cholera in Yemen

24 May 2017

With more than 100,000 people in Yemen believed to be at risk for cholera, the top United Nations humanitarian official in the country is appealing to Governments for urgent financial and political support.

“Cholera continues to spread at anunprecedented rate throughout Yemen affecting men, women, and children who have for more than two years withstood the consequences of a conflict that is collapsing institutions and social safety nets,” the UN humanitarian coordinator in the country, Jamie McGoldrick.

More than 35,500 suspected cases of cholera were reported in Yemen in the past three weeks, and 361 deaths.

Health authorities have said that one-third of the current cases are children, drawing a link between cholera and malnutrition in a country where 17 million people are food insecure.

“Hundreds of thousands of people are at a greater risk of dying as they face the ‘triple threat’ of conflict, starvation and cholera,” Mr. McGoldrick said.

The speed at which cholera is spreading among the population exceeds the capacity of the health system to respond given its weakened state after more than two years of conflict, he noted, despite “valiant” work by national and international humanitarians.

The majority of health care centres in Yemen are closed, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Those that are open have limited staff and supplies due to import restrictions and a lack of regular salary payments to health workers.

In addition, water and sanitation services are unable to provide clean water to the population.

The humanitarian community is seeking $55.4 million for the next six months, but “every day that funding is delayed the outbreak affects more people and more resources are needed to control it,” OCHA said.

Yemen must stop persecution of Bahá’í community, urges UN expert on freedom of religion

GENEVA (22 May 2017)

“The recent escalation in the persistent pattern of persecution of the Bahá’í community in Sana’a mirrors the persecution suffered by the Bahá’ís living in Iran,” said today the United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed. “Many Yemeni Bahá’í families in Sana’a have left their homes and live in constant fear,” he warned.

“The harassment against the Bahá’ís, as religious minorities, seems to persist, if not worsen amounting to religious persecution in Yemen,” the human rights expert said. “It is unacceptable for anyone, including persons belonging to religious minorities, to be targeted or discriminated based on religion or belief.”

Mr. Shaheed’s warning comes after the Pub​​lic Prosecutor reportedly summoned on 17 April 2017 at least thirty Yemeni Bahá’ís by phone to appear in court. At the same time, the authorities in Sana’a issued arrest orders of at least twenty-five Bahá’ís, pressuring them to recant their faith.

In addition, two Yemeni Bahá’ís, Walid Ayyash and Mahmood Humaid, were reportedly arrested by political security officers at a check point near the city border of Hudiedah. Their whereabouts are unknown since their arrests.

“The new wave of court summons and arrest orders appears to be an act of intimidation pressuring the Yemeni Bahá’ís to recant their faith,” the Special Rapporteur said. “The Yemeni authorities, including the de facto authorities in Sana’a, have failed to respond to the call made by my predecessor and other UN independent experts last year.”

“The Houthi de facto authorities in Sana’a must stop summoning or arresting the Bahá’ís and immediately release all Bahá’ís arbitrarily detained,” he stressed. “They must also start an inquiry into the disappearances of Mr. Ayyash and Mr. Humaid, and provide details of the investigation.”

The expert furthermore recalled the case of Hamid Kamali Bin Haydara, arrested in 2013, and remains incarcerated in the National Security Prison for ‘compromising the independence of the Republic of Yemen’, including spreading the Bahá’í faith in the Republic of Yemen. His trial has been postponed on numerous occasions up till 1 August 2017. The expert also urged for the release of two other Bahá’ís, Kaiwan Mohamed Ali Qadri and Pazhohesh Sana’i who remain detained since their arrests.

The Special Rapporteur reminded the Yemeni Official Government and the de facto authorities in Sana’a that the right to freedom of conscience, thought, religion or belief is a non-derogable right under any circumstance. To this end, he further reminded both official and de facto authorities of the right of persons not to be arbitrarily detained for exercising religious freedom or for belonging to a religious minority.

Mr. Ahmed Shaheed (the Maldives) was appointed as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016. Mr. Shaheed is a Visiting Professor at Essex University, UK; a former member of the Maldivian presidential Commission Investigating Corruption; and a foreign policy advisor to the President of the Maldives. He was Foreign Minister of the Maldives from 2005 to 2007 and from 2008 to 2010. He led the country’s efforts to sign and ratify all nine international human rights Conventions and to implement them in law and practice. Mr. Shaheed is the former Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

Check the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief

UN Human Rights, country page: Yemen

For more information and media requests please contact: Ms. Chian Yew Lim (clim@ohchr.org) or Ms. Maken Tzeggai (+41 22 917 9889 / mtzeggai@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

Concerned about the world we live in? Then STAND UP for someone’s rights today.  #Standup4humanrights and visit the web page at http://www.standup4humanrights.org

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Cholera outbreak in war-torn Yemen spreading at ‘unprecedented’ speed, UN warns

There has been an unprecedented surge in cholera cases in Yemen, with over 23,400 suspected cases and 242 deaths reported in 18 governorates. Photo: WHO Yemen

19 May 2017

As war-torn Yemen grapples with heavy rains, a collapsed healthcare system and crippled economy, a resurgent cholera outbreak has spread with “unprecedented” speed and taken medical professionals by surprise, the World Health Organization warned today.

According to WHO, more than 240 people have died from cholera in just the last three weeks, out of a total of 23,400 infections. The agency estimates that 7.6 million people live in areas at high risk of cholera transmission.

“I have to admit that when I see the data that I saw this morning, not officially released; are really taking us by surprise. The speed of the resurgence of the cholera epidemic is unprecedented” said Dr. Nevio Zagaria, the WHO representative in Yemen speaking to UN News in Geneva.

The current disease outbreak has its roots in an original episode last October. It peaked in December 2016 and never fully went away, amid conflict between Government and Houthi-backed opposition forces that has left over half the country’s medical facilities closed or damaged, and the economy in freefall.

The lack of local health centres – and the fact that staff haven’t been paid in seven months – have left Yemenis with no option but to seek help from hospitals, which WHO says are now “overwhelmed.”

Additional problems include massive damage to the country’s sewage and electricity infrastructure, which have left the water supply contaminated. A WHO map showing cholera hotspots in Yemen indicates the highest number of suspected cases – more than 6,000 – in the capital city, Sana’a.

Few communities have been left untouched by the disease, which is characterized by severe diarrhoea that can kill within hours, if not treated promptly.

In some places the fatality rate is as high as four to five per cent, and WHO is extremely concerned that the disease is being passed from one person to another.

“But if the transmission goes on at this speed, we need to revise the figure and we need to expect something that can go up over 200, 250,000 cases over the next six months, in addition to the 50,000 cases that already occur […] so you can understand by yourself with this number the price we pay in terms of life is extremely high,” explained Dr. Zagaria, adding: “We have to do more.”

In response to the crisis, WHO has begun the task of setting up 350 cholera treatment centres and 2,000 oral rehydration points. It is also focusing on tracing infection hotspots, to reduce the risk of disease transmission.

The agency has stressed that the scale of the threat is “too big” for the Yemeni authorities to do on their own, and that to date only around 20 per cent of its $22 million cholera appeal has been met.

مع استمرار الصراع في اليمن اللاجئون الصوماليون يفكرون في العودة

2017/5/19

قالت مفوضية الأمم المتحدة لشؤون اللاجئين إنه مع تزايد حدة الصراع في اليمن وتعرض المدنيين للقتل والجرح، بدأ العديد من اللاجئين الذين جاءوا إلى اليمن هربا من الصراعات في بلدانهم الأصلية في العودة إلى ديارهم. 

فوفقا لبيانات المفوضية، عاد أكثر من 30 ألف صومالي بالفعل إلى الصومال منذ تصاعد الصراع في اليمن في مارس 2015. ويمثل الصوماليون الأغلبية الساحقة من اللاجئين في اليمن، بنسبة 91% أو حوالي 255 ألف لاجئ.

وعلى الرغم من تاريخ اليمن السخي في قبول اللاجئين الذين يحتاجون إلى الحماية الدولية، حيث إنه البلد الوحيد في شبه الجزيرة العربية الموقع على اتفاقية اللاجئين والبروتوكول الملحق بها، فقد حدت الحرب المستمرة من قدرته على توفير المساعدة والحماية الكافية للاجئين.

المتحدث باسم المفوضية بابار بالوش، قال في مؤتمر صحفي في جنيف اليوم، إن المفوضية تدعم الذين يختارون العودة الطوعية، حيث ساعدت ما يصل إلى عشرة آلاف لاجئ صومالي على العودة خلال هذا العام:

“تستقبل مفوضية الأمم المتحدة لشؤون اللاجئين عددا متزايدا من اللاجئين الذين يأتون إلينا طلبا للمساعدة والدعم ليعودوا إلى الصومال، خوفا على سلامتهم وأمنهم ومحدودية فرص الحصول على الخدمات في اليمن. مع الأخذ في الاعتبار كافة التحديات داخل الصومال، يقال إن نحو 30 ألفا قد عادوا بالفعل إليه من اليمن منذ بداية الحرب.”

 

Yemen’s war pushing Somali refugees to return home – UN agency

19 May 2017

More than 30,000 Somali refugees have apparently returned to Somalia from Yemen, the United Nations refugee agency said, and an increasing number are seeking aid to return home.

Babar Baloch, spokesperson at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), today told reporters at the UN’s Geneva Office that Somali refugees are approaching the agency for assistance to return “citing safety and security concerns and limited access to services in Yemen.”

The UN agency can assist up to 10,000 Somalis who voluntarily want to return to their home country. Their assistance would include documentation, travel and transportation aid, as well as financial support in Yemen to facilitate the journey.

“Most refugees opt to return to Mogadishu, in the anticipation that assistance and services will be more accessible and available,” Mr. Baloch said.

Among the people who want to return is Barei Ibrahim and her 10 children. Ms. Ibrahim has been living in Yemen for 26 years, after war drove her from Somalia in the early nineties.

“I don’t have anything here,” she told UNHCR from Yemen’s only refugee camp, Kharaz, in the Lahj governorate. “I don’t have a job or a future and we are facing difficulties. We are begging to get by and are living in sorrow and grief.”

Some 30,600 Somalis have reportedly already returned to Somalia from Yemen since the beginning of the current war, according to UN figures.

“The conditions facing the almost 280,000 refugees in-country are worsening and their needs are growing by the day,” UNHCR said. About 91 per cent of those refugees are Somalis, many who fled to Yemen years ago.

Yemen has traditionally accepted those in need of international protection, and is the only country in the Arabian Peninsula signatory to the Refugee Convention and the Protocol. However, the ongoing war has limited the capacities to provide adequate assistance and protection to refugees.

The UN agency is working to support those refugees living in Yemen, providing protection and services that include legal assistance, education and access to health and psycho-social services.