On 4 April last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that the streets of Aden are “strewn with dead bodies, and people are afraid to leave their homes”. ICRC statement called for a 24-hour humanitarian “pause” to allow delivery of medical supplies and assistance to the city, and other war-affected areas in Yemen, amid intense fighting in the city between forces of the Houthi group, backed by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and supporters of the last Yemen president Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi.
Nonetheless, its three full days since this call was made, and it does not seem that there were listening ears among the Saudi-led coalition to pick up the call. Today, Decisive Storm (how Saudi calls it) has been in operation for thirteen days. The United Nation’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said 549 people were killed, including 217 civilians, and around 1707 injured including 516 civilians. These numbers do not represent fatalities that occurred because of the Saudi-led military campaign, but also round up all killed and injured in the cycle of violence since 20 March.
OCHA produces a non-regular “Yemen: Escalating Conflict Situation Report” highlighting the direness of humanitarian situation in the country as result of armed conflict. In its latest report, marking the period from 31 March to 3 April, it provided a worrisome update on the state of respect to humanitarian principles and those concerning laws of war. Two health facilities and five schools have been occupied by parties to the conflict, while in Aden, six ambulances have been seized by parties to conflict out of which four were then used in hostilities. Additionally, four health workers – two ambulance drivers and two volunteers – were killed in these incidents and who happened to be ICRC workers.
Displacement across the country is also showing high levels while street-to-street fighting, airplane and missile bombing continue. OCHA says that current estimate (which again is an underestimate) reached the threshold of 100,000 displaced persons. However, the UN agencies repeatedly say that the most urgent humanitarian needs in Yemen are Disease surveillance; Medicine for chronic diseases and blood bank elements.
Humanitarian aid flow also needs political will from those who have control over the situation. On 31 March, Reuters reported that Saudi-led coalition is stopping ICRC delivery of medical aid to Yemen. The statement which the news agency quoted called for “the urgent removal of obstacles to the delivery to Yemen of vital medical supplies needed to treat casualties from a week of deadly clashes and air strikes”. Albeit ICRC reported that it obtained an approval to bring aid, on 5 April, there are tremendous logistical and security challenges its team will confront to make to the needy across the country.
Today, a spokesman for the international medical aid group, Doctors Without Borders, was quoted by Agency France Presse (AFP) saying its medical team in Aden had “not received large numbers of casualties over the past few days, not because there are no wounded people, but due to the difficulties faced in trying to reach a hospital”. The group has, too, complained that its facing impediments to being in larger numbers of medical teams to the country.