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Yemen aid obstruction has 'deadly consequences'

September 14, 2020

Interference by both sides in the war in Yemen is causing obstructions to aid deliveries. Millions will likely suffer as a result, Human Rights Watch warns in a new report.

Refugees at a camp in Yemen
Image: picture-alliance/AA/M. Hamoud

Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned on Monday that restrictions being implemented on aid deliveries by warring sides in Yemen may lead to "deadly consequences."

A report by the rights group said that interference by Houthi rebels in the north, including the capital, Sanaa, as well as by the internationally recognized government based in the south, was "severely restricting" the allocation of aid to those most in need.

The UN had already warned that Yemen was on track to return to "the brink of a full-scale famine" in July, while also dealing with outbreaks of coronavirus infections.

Read moreYemen separatists abandon self-rule in step toward peace

Hurdles at every corner

The report uncovered a complex web of restrictions to aid including long delays in approval for projects, obstruction of aid surveys, attempts to dictate the allocation of aid, and violence towards aid workers.

Deliveries by the UN World Food Program were temporarily suspended in 2019 in areas controlled by the Houthi rebels until they dropped their threat to tax aid.

Aid workers also had to "push back" against the insurgents who told them to hand over cars, laptops and mobile phones at the end of their projects in 2019 and 2020.

HRW criticized those aid agencies which had given in to the demands stating that this was potentially worsening the situation.

Read moreAward-winning Yemeni author has one hope: an end to the war

Children at a refugee camp in Yemen
The UN has warned that 80% of the population in war-torn Yemen is in need of some form of assistanceImage: picture-alliance/Photoshot/M. Al Wafi

Funding crisis

Obstacles to aid were also seen to be on the rise in government-controlled areas, however, the report said that, "it's true in the south there are restrictions too, but ... in the north, the amount of restrictions and their severity is exceptional."

Lisa Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, warned in August that millions of Yemenis will "suffer and could die" following a severe reduction in the amount of funding for projects in the country.

According to the UN, 80% of the population, or 24 million people, are in need of some form of assistance or protection.

Donors back in June pledged only $1.3 billion (€1.1 billion) out of the $2.41 billion needed to fully fund essential humanitarian projects in the country until the end of the year.

"We are now sleepwalking towards a seventh year of war, and the people of Yemen can only surmise that the world has forgotten them," said a statement issued on Monday by several international NGOs active in the country.

Yemen is also suffering from outbreaks of coronavirus with over 2,000 cases and 583 deaths reported so far, although the UN estimates the real numbers to be much higher.

Read moreCoronavirus in Yemen: A country on the brink

ab/dr (AFP, AP, Reuters)