REPUBLIC OF YEMEN: Peace talks must prioritize getting aid to desperate civilians

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3 Aug 2016
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Regional conflict

Restrictions on the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to civilians in Yemen are exacerbating the country’s humanitarian crisis and endangering lives, said Amnesty International calling on all parties to the conflict to allow full and unfettered access to organizations providing crucial supplies.

A delegation from the organization visited Huthi-controlled parts of Yemen in May 2016 and spoke to 11 local and international humanitarian aid organizations who described unlawful restrictions on aid by both Huthi and Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces. The organization is urging that the removal of impediments to aid delivery is given top priority at the peace talks currently underway in Kuwait before they conclude this week.

“It is absolutely imperative that negotiators prioritize this issue and take steps to guarantee aid is getting to those who need it most and that aid workers and their operations are not targeted or harassed,” said Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.

“All parties to the armed conflict have an obligation to allow and facilitate delivery of impartial humanitarian assistance for civilians in need. Blocking such aid is a violation of international humanitarian law. Unfettered humanitarian assistance must be allowed to all those in Yemen desperately in need of food, water and sanitation and all parties need to let the aid workers do their jobs without interference or obstruction.”

During the post-Ramadan Eid period at the start of this month and leading up to the resumption of peace talks on 15 July, airstrikes and ground hostilities in various parts of the country re-intensified, leading to further displacement and worsening a situation where half of Yemen’s children are chronically malnourished.

Aid workers who spoke to Amnesty International consistently described ad-hoc and unlawful barriers hampering the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the country. These include the overly burdensome deconfliction procedures for humanitarian organizations put in place by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which entail informing the coalition of all their movements and providing coordinates of their operations so that they are not targeted.

The Saudi Arabia-led coalition demands excessively detailed maps, staff and vehicle information. These onerous requirements consume considerable time and resources. As a result, some NGOs are unable or choose not to provide this information, placing their staff and supplies in grave danger.

Harassment of humanitarian workers by Huthis

Humanitarian organizations also reported being verbally or physically threatened, detained and questioned by a variety of Huthi committees and Huthi-aligned entities. In some cases, staff were detained or intimidated at gunpoint and humanitarian organizations were forced to halt field activities if they did not agree to unreasonable demands such as handing over the names of beneficiaries receiving their aid.

Bureaucratic restrictions

Stifling layers of bureaucracy imposed by the Huthi-controlled ministries also slow down the approval process of aid delivery. For example, humanitarian organizations have been asked by the Ministry of Planning to submit travel plans for a three month period, which can be extremely challenging in the volatile context of an armed conflict where plans can change at short notice.

The de facto Huthi authorities have also imposed a number of restrictions on access for international humanitarian workers, arbitrarily denying them access or delaying issuing visas and imposing excessively onerous internal movement permits for both international and national staff.

Interference with independence of aid operations

In some cases Huthi local authorities have stalled and in some cases stopped assessments of humanitarian needs and programme monitoring from being carried out. They have also attempted to influence who humanitarian organizations hire or distribute aid to.

The 2016 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan requests US $1.8 billion, but by end of June, only 25% of funding had been received.

26 July 2016

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