Yemen: UN calls for unimpeded access to people in need while fighting intensifies

Girls fetching water in Mawyah district, Taiz,Yemen. This role often falls on the shoulders of girls and young women, often at the expense of their education. Photo: OCHA

Girls fetching water in Mawyah district, Taiz,Yemen. This role often falls on the shoulders of girls and young women, often at the expense of their education. Photo: OCHA

3 September 2015

Air strikes, armed confrontation and looting across Taiz governorate in Yemen have exacerbated an already desperate situation, dramatically escalating humanitarian suffering, the United Nations relief wing warned today, urging unimpeded access to those in need.

Densely populated, Taiz was already one of the most vulnerable of the 22 governorates in the country, with 1.8 million people targeted by the UN for humanitarian assistance.

In its latest crisis update, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that from 14 to 27 August, at least 95 civilians, including 52 children and 20 women, were killed, and 129 civilians, including 14 women and 36 children, were injured by indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling.

The city of Taiz is being described by the UN “as a battleground,” with people caught between the frontlines and unable to find safety and security. Private homes are reportedly being destroyed as punishment for perceived support for opposing parties.

In addition, OCHA is warning that the health system across the governorate has nearly collapsed due to the damage to health infrastructure caused by the conflict and the lack of fuel, medicines and hospital supplies. None of the six public hospitals in the governorate are operational, with the exception of the emergency unit and the kidney ward at the Al-Thawrah and Al-Jumhouri hospitals.

Meanwhile, in violation of international humanitarian law, militants reportedly seized the Yemen International Hospital in Taiz and its ambulances on 24 August. According to OCHA, they forced all 80 patients, 20 of them in the intensive care unit, out of the hospital.

Further exacerbating the public health outlook in Taiz, an extreme spike in cases of dengue fever has been recorded in the last two weeks with 432 cases as of 25 August. The city’s inhabitants are also at greater risk of contracting communicable diseases due to solid waste piling up on the sides of roads.

The UN is reiterating its call today for predictable, safe, and unimpeded access to communities in need in the whole governorate, to deliver the much needed life-saving assistance to those who it says continue to suffer in Taiz.