United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien addressed the United Nations Security Council on Friday to appeal for relief funding for Yemen. “The Yemeni people’s suffering has relentlessly intensified,” he said, noting that 7 million Yemenis were on the brink of famine and that 16 million lacked access to water.
O’Brien also specifically delineated the ways in which “this human tragedy is deliberate.” Fewer than half of Yemen’s medical facilities are still functioning, and over 1.2 million civil servants, including health workers, have been paid only sporadically, if at all, since last October. 2017 has seen three times as many airstrikes per month as 2016, and clashes on the ground have increased by 50 percent.
He pointed to the Saudi-led coalition’s record of preventing humanitarian aid shipments from reaching Yemenis in need. He called for greater humanitarian access and for further investigations into alleged human rights violations.
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed warned that “death looms for Yemenis by air, land, and sea” and called on all parties to prioritize peace over personal interests. “There are many merchants of war in Yemen who do not want peace,” he said, but he also described his own efforts to coordinate between the Houthis and representatives of the Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi regime.
US Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Michele J. Sison spoke as well, calling for “immediate steps to address Yemen’s humanitarian catastrophe.” Sison urged the countries that pledged humanitarian funding at April’s Geneva conference “to follow through with their funding as quickly as possible,” pointing out that “the United States is the largest donor to the UN’s Yemen appeal.”
At the same time, Sison acknowledged that “all the funding in the world will not be enough if life-saving goods cannot reach Yemenis in need” and called on “all parties” to “respect the need for unfettered humanitarian access.” She said that, “when a ship is cleared by the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism, that ship should be allowed to proceed to port,” and she condemned “looting and diversion of aid in areas controlled by the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh.” She did not name the Saudi-led coalition for its role in blocking the distribution of humanitarian aid.