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March 26, 2020

Yemen | Civilians are the first victims of endless war

Humanity & Inclusion condemns the extended use of explosive weapons - including the use of landmines, weapons prohibited by the Ottawa Treaty since 1999 - in the 5-years of the Yemen war. Explosive violence has devastating and indiscriminate effects on civilians: Humanity & Inclusion has treated more than 3,000 victims of explosive weapons since 2015 in Yemen, including 850 victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war. Almost all of them have long-term physical, cognitive, or sensory limitations resulting from their injuries, and will require specific care for life. The association is also deeply concerned by the multiple obstacles to humanitarian intervention and access to population caused by unreasonable bureaucratic impediments. Humanity & Inclusion calls on all concerned parties to lift any obstruction and facilitate timely and safe access to humanitarian assistance and protection to affected populations.

In 5 years of war, the use of explosive weapons has been devastating for Yemen: Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) reports that explosive weapons killed or injured nearly 16,300 people between 2015 and 2018. About 80% of them were civilians. When explosive weapons were used in populated areas in Yemen, AOAV found that 95% of casualties were civilians.

There are reports of widespread use of landmines in several regions of the country. Landmines and various explosive ordnance are now present in 19 out of 22 governorates throughout Yemen, putting millions of civilians at risk (OCHA, 2019).

Humanity & Inclusion is present in the governorates of Sana'a, Amanat al Asimah and Aden, in six health centers, and welcomes patients from all over the country. Humanity & Inclusion has treated 25,000 people, many of them victims of the conflict, since the beginning of its operations in 2015. More than 3,000 of them are victims of explosive weapons (bombings, explosive remnants of war, improvised explosive devices...).

Among its beneficiaries, Humanity & Inclusion notes a large and unprecedented proportion of victims of landmines and explosive remnants of war in Yemen: 850 victims of these weapons have been taken care of by the association in 5 years.

"We are stricken by the number of people injured by bombing, landmines or unexploded ordnance," says Thomas Hugonnier, Director of Middle East Operations for Humanity & Inclusion. "For many of them, physical rehabilitation is an absolute necessity. Many wounded people will need long-term medical, financial and social support, often for the rest of their lives... The devastating legacy of this conflict will leave for a whole generation of people with injuries and disabilities and will require the support of aid agencies for many years."

The massive and repeated use of explosive weapons - especially those with wide area effects - in populated areas has exacerbated Yemen’s humanitarian crisis and will have a long-term impact in Yemen. Every month in 2018, up to 600 civilian infrastructures were destroyed or damaged, according to the Humanitarian Needs Overview. 80% of the population needs humanitarian aid to survive. In Yemen, 50% of medical facilities no longer function while 19.7 million people in need of healthcare and 17.8 people lack access to safe water and sanitation. The economic blockade and disruption to the economy have inflated the cost of food and fuel. More than 3 million people are displaced.

The level of contamination by explosive remnants of war in Yemen is likely to be extremely high due to the intensity of the conflict. Should the conflict end today, incidents linked with the use of weapons are expected to last for decades and continue to impair the civilian population and prevent the return of the displaced civilians to their homes.

The association has provided more than 27,000 crutches, walkers, wheelchairs etc. Nearly 23,000 people have received psychological support. HI fitted 300 people with prostheses and orthotics through its collaboration with the Sana'a Physiotherapy and Prosthesis Centre. More than 700 Yemeni health workers in Sana'a and other governorates were sensitized and trained in early trauma response.

Humanity & Inclusion has contributed to set up emergency rehabilitation for war wounded in Yemen to meet the specific needs of the victims: landmines cause amputations of lower limbs. The victims of bombing have complex injuries (open wounds, fractures, burns, loss of muscle mass, damaged nervous systems, etc.). Without rehabilitation immediately following surgery, patients risk serious loss of mobility, resulting in difficulties that often go hand in hand with social and professional marginalization, a reduction in income and the impoverishment of the patient's family.

"Five years of armed conflict led to a complex crisis with devastating effects," says Hugonnier. "The armed violence has destroyed the country's economic circuits making Yemen the world's largest humanitarian emergency: 80% of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. NGOs face significant security and administrative constraints that considerably reduce their scope of action. It is essential to ensure that the affected population have a safe and timely access to basic services. States’ Donors should renew their support to the lifesaving humanitarian aid in Yemen and continue to put pressure on parties to the conflict to lift the obstacles that impede humanitarian access and intervention."

Diplomatic process to end bombing in urban areas

Humanity & Inclusion and members of the International Network of Explosive Weapons (INEW) are working with States to develop a strong political declaration to end the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas and to ensure support to the victims of these weapons.

Negotiations for a political declaration to end the human suffering caused by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas started in Vienna on October 1-2, 2019. Two rounds of negotiations took place in Geneva on November 2019 and February 2020 and will be followed by another round of consultations later in 2020. This diplomatic process will be finalized with a political declaration that will be opened for endorsement.

Humanity & Inclusion calls for citizens’ support to mobilize members of Congress, to ensure that the U.S. government will commit to the cause--something the Administration has not done. Citizens are invited to write to their members of Congress to ask their government to support the declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas.

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