Yemen: Main governments pledging aid are also fueling the crisis

The humanitarian crisis can only be resolved when donor governments end their involvement in the war

A young patient injured by a land mine receives care at an MSF hospital in Mocha, Yemen.
YEMEN 2018 © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF
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GENEVA/NEW YORK, FEBRUARY 26, 2019—Many of the governments that met today at the United Nations donor conference in Geneva to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen are themselves also involved in the war there, which is marked by massive humanitarian needs and the obstruction of assistance by warring parties, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

Access to basic services and aid is severely limited in Yemen as warring parties destroy the country's infrastructure, including the health system, while their international supporters turn a blind eye.

The United States is a main supporter of the Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition fighting Houthi (Ansar Allah) forces in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while primary parties to the conflict, are also among the top donors of aid to Yemen.

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The parties to the conflict have effectively prevented the fair distribution of assistance based on humanitarian need. Obstacles include restrictions on imports, visas, and movement permits. Meanwhile, active fighting and checkpoints continue to fragment the country, restricting the delivery of aid to many of the communities most in need. 

These barriers to access also prevent or hamper aid organizations from reaching some parts of the country to identify and evaluate the needs. Even when aid does reach people, it remains highly inadequate.

Donors, United Nations agencies, and their implementing partners must significantly increase medical and humanitarian aid across Yemen to reach more people and respond to the most critical needs.

Substantial gaps in support for primary health care have left people exposed to recurring outbreaks of preventable diseases, such as measles, diphtheria, and cholera.

The parties to the conflict are also failing to protect civilians and provide adequate support to war-wounded patients. Residential and urban areas have become battlefields, with stray bullets, shrapnel, airstrikes, and land mines injuring a disproportionate number of children, women, and the elderly. Those who manage to reach MSF facilities often spend hours traveling on extremely unsafe roads across front lines; many others likely never make it. Many of these patients passed through other facilities but were unable to receive the care they needed due to lack of medical supplies or personnel.  

An MSF cholera treatment center in Abs was targeted by a Saudi- and Emirati-led Coalition (SELC) airstrike in June 2018, the fifth MSF facility in Yemen to be struck since March 2015. A subsequent report from the investigating team absurdly portrayed MSF as partly responsible for, rather than a victim of, the bombing.

Donor governments pledging funds must work to resolve the obstacles that are preventing aid from reaching the people who need it, and to ensure that the aid delivered responds to the actual needs. Ultimately, Yemen's humanitarian crisis can only be resolved when donor governments end their involvement in the war and hold the warring parties accountable for their atrocious conduct, endangering the lives of millions.