A prolonged fuel shortage is complicating the delivery of humanitarian aid, worsening the crisis in Yemen. Caroline Dauber, Humanity & Inclusion’s country director for Yemen, explains how civilians are impacted.
In May 2020, Humanity & Inclusion and other NGOs alerted the United Nations and States on the profound consequences of the fuel crisis in Yemen, exacerbating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Caused by war, the current fuel shortage has recently taken on unprecedented proportions: Fuel imports from Hodeidah, Yemen’s main port and lifeline, decreased by 91% between January and April this year. For the first time, the number of imports dropped to zero in February.
As a result, the prices of goods and services have skyrocketed. Fruits and vegetables are becoming luxury commodities, and food prices continue to increase on a monthly basis. In some areas, the price of water has doubled.
Delivering humanitarian aid
The ability of Humanity & Inclusion and other humanitarian organizations to deliver assistance to those with the greatest need has also been affected. Transportation costs are soaring, preventing people from reaching life-saving assistance and medical treatment.
Health providers report problems operating medical equipment that requires generators. The fuel shortage has forced some health agencies to reduce their activities and triage patients to treat those with only the most serious conditions.
Some agencies are struggling with water disposal services and provision in camps for displaced people. As waste management trucks cease operations, trash in displacement camps accumulates rapidly, increasing the risk of disease.
The water office in Hajjah, which used to provide water to displaced communities twice a month, can only do so once a month. People unable to purchase clean and safe water from water trucks are resorting to drinking dirty or saline water. Other vital services such as food distribution are also affected, as delivery teams report delays.
Some aid agencies may scale down activities and reduce the number of people assisted to meet increasing costs for contracted goods and services. A growing number of people in desperate need will be left unassisted.
Millions in need
- 20 million people—or 66% of the population—in Yemen are in need of humanitarian assistance
- 16 million people are food insecure
- 15 million people struggle to access clean water
- 4 million people have been forced from their homes
HI in Yemen
Humanity & Inclusion has 80 staff members in nine health facilities working to serve the Yemeni population. Since Humanity & Inclusion began working in Yemen in 2015 teams have:
- Offered rehabilitation sessions and instruction to 30,633 people
- Provided psychosocial support and counseling sessions to 22,999 people
- Equipped people with 35,371 mobility aids, including crutches and wheelchairs
- Fitted 522 people with artificial limbs and braces
- Distributed 2,250 hygiene kits
- Trained 807 medical staff in rehabilitation
- Offered financial support to nearly 700 households
Image: Destruction in Aden, Yemen. Copyright: ISNA Agency/HI
Stop Bombing Civilians | U.S. and Russia among main perpetrators of civilian harm caused by airstrikes
As U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin prepare to meet on June 16 in Geneva, Switzerland, Humanity & Inclusion recognizes the two countries are among the main perpetrators of civilian harm caused by airstrikes.
According to Action on Armed Violence, the United States-led coalition, the Saudi-led coalition, Syria and Russia are key perpetrators of civilian harm from airstrikes since 2011.
“US-led and NATO airstrikes have been the deadliest this decade," explains Anne Héry, Humanity & Inclusion's Advocacy Director. "Combined, their airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen had 7,391 civilian casualties—with an extremely high fatality rate of 71%.
"In Syria, many airstrikes were conducted by Russian forces or with the support of Russian forces: Russia is responsible for at least 3,968 civilian casualties in Syria, according to AOAV.”
Bombing in populated areas: A major humanitarian issue
The use of explosive weapons in urban areas, including airstrikes, has systematic humanitarian consequences for civilian populations. Between 2011 and 2020, 91% of victims of explosive weapons in populated areas were civilians.
Explosive weapons kill and injure civilians, cause severe psychological trauma, destroy vital infrastructure such as schools, health centers and roads, and force people to flee their homes. Bombing also leaves behind explosive remnants of war that threaten the lives of civilians long after fighting is over. It is more vital than ever to adopt a strong political declaration to protect civilians.
Final stage of a diplomatic process
The draft of an international agreement against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas is at its final negotiation stage between states, UN agencies, international organizations—including Humanity & Inclusion—and civil society. A final round of negotiations will be held in the Fall. Then, the international agreement is expected to be finalized by the end of 2021.
So far, more than 70 States have participated in this diplomatic process that began in October 2019.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, called States to avoid any use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas, creating a presumption against the use of heavy explosive weapons.
“Both Russia and the United States must be more supportive and together with other states develop a strong political declaration. This political declaration must change policies and practices of all militaries to better protect civilians from explosive weapons in populated areas.” —Anne Héry, HI Advocacy Director
Ceasefire between Gaza and Israel enables local teams in Gaza to launch rehabilitation services for more than 500 people.
Twelve days after the most recent escalation of violence in Gaza, the parties involved have announced a ceasefire.
This long-awaited break comes after nearly eight days of constant bombings resulted in 242 lives lost between Gaza and Israel, including 67 children and 43 women. More than 1,700 people are injured.
“We’ve been waiting for a ceasefire,” says Laurent Palustran, Humanity & Inclusion’s country manager for the region. “We can now start responding to humanitarian needs with more ease and be able to intensify the distribution of a lot more aid than what we’ve done so far.”
According to a recent report by the UNWRA, approximately 91,000 people have been internally displaced, over 66,000 of whom have sought refuge in 58 UNWRA schools opened as emergency shelters. Humanity & Inclusion teams have conducted needs assessments of those displaced people to determine next steps.
“We’re starting to get clearer data thanks to these evaluations,” Palustran explains. “We have identified over 500 people in these shelters that have disabilities and are in need.”
Reham Shaheen, Humanity & Inclusion’s Rehabilitation Task Force Coordinator in Gaza, explains the needs of the vulnerable populations the organization serves in areas of conflict.
“Psychosocial support is one of the greatest needs,” Shaheen says. “Many will lose a limb or an organ and will have psychological needs afterwards. People really need mental health and counseling to cope with the current situation. Then there is great need for multidisciplinary rehabilitation services, like physical therapy and wound dressing sessions to prevent disabilities after injury.
“Usually the needs of injured people change after a few weeks. There is either deterioration or improvement in their condition, so there is dire need for assistive devices and rehabilitation support as well.”
Humanity & Inclusion is prepared to distribute mobility aids such as crutches, walkers and wheelchairs, along with Infection Prevention and Control kits to keep wounds clean and prevent infection that could lead to long-term ailments.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not let up in Gaza, with Johns Hopkins reporting a total of 304,532 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, and 3,448 deaths between Gaza and the West Bank.
“This escalation occurred while we’re being hit with a second wave of Covid-19,” Shaheen explains. “We have two emergencies, so there is a need for hygiene kits. People need to have clean environments to be able to avoid illness, and in terms of injuries, to keep their wounds clean to avoid any infections.”
Image: A Humanity & Inclusion physical therapist assists an injured civilian in a rehabilitation session in Gaza in 2018. Copyright: Hardy Skills/HI
The resurgence of violence between Israelis and Palestinians since May 11, has already left dozens dead and many others injured, including at least nine children. Humanity & Inclusion’s teams, working in Gaza since 1996, are ready to deliver aid to the most vulnerable people, including those who are injured.
Within 24 hours of the latest outbreak of violence between Palestinians and Israelis, some 50 people were killed and many others injured, including nine children, between the two countries.
“Civilians are the main victims of these latest clashes,” explains Laurent Palustran, who manages Humanity & Inclusion’s actions in Gaza.
“We are particularly concerned about the most vulnerable people, including aging adults, people with disabilities, and isolated women. They find it difficult to move around and seek assistance, so they’re the first to be affected in crises and conflicts.
“Gaza is 1.86 miles wide and 26 miles long, and counts more than 2 million inhabitants. The population density is extremely high. This is why there are multiple civilian casualties as soon as a conflict and fighting break out. Airstrikes often also damage and destroy homes and infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, as well as roads, electricity grids, gas lines, and communication networks.”
Humanity & Inclusion is preparing to supply aid to the most vulnerable people through its teams and local partner organizations. Staff will also mobilize their pre-positioned humanitarian stocks, including hygiene kits and walking aids such as crutches and wheelchairs.
Gaza has been under blockade for a long time, and supplies are already extremely limited. The latest clashes could lead to a rapid deterioration of the situation. If the power plant is no longer supplied with fuel, there could be power shortages, and water could be in short supply. Food shortages are also a possibility.
If fighting continues, hospitals in Gaza risk an influx of injured people who will need urgent rehabilitation care after receiving emergency medical treatment. Humanity & Inclusion also fears that the situation facing the most vulnerable people will worsen unless they receive the humanitarian aid they need. It will also be necessary to provide support to people who have lost their homes as a result of bombing or who are unable to ensure their basic survival.
Image: A member of Humanity & Inclusion's mobile emergency team assists an injured man in Gaza in 2018. Copyright: Hardy Skills/HI
Abdullah was playing outside with his friends, when an airstrike blasted his village in Yemen. After doctors amputated his leg, Humanity & Inclusion helped Abdullah stand tall again.
The attack in December 2019, deeply affected Abdullah, 12. Not only was he gravely injured, but his cousin, who was like a brother to him, was killed. In an effort to save his life, Abdullah was rushed to Al Kuwait Hospital in Sana’a, where his leg was amputated.
The hospital is more than five hours from Al-Hudaida, where Abdullah lives with 11 siblings and his parents in a small house. Until recently, the village was the scene of frequent fighting and airstrikes. Living in poverty and isolation, Abdullah’s family does not have access to health services, electricity, food or water. The nearest school is miles away. For Abdullah and his family, getting the boy fitted for a prosthetic leg seemed out of reach at first.
Confined to the hospital for almost a month, Abdullah struggled with the grief of losing his cousin. He worried he would never play, walk or run again.
Traumatized, Abdullah was afraid of the doctors who came to see him. He screamed whenever physical therapists tried to do rehabilitation exercises with him. He was completely lost. Everything frightened him.
Humanity & Inclusion’s team took the time to reassure him and build his confidence. The team gave him psychological support and rehabilitation care. He went from using a wheelchair to crutches.
Then, the team fitted him with a below-the-knee prosthetic leg, and conducted rehabilitation sessions to help strengthen his muscles and teach him to walk again. The team also taught Abdullah and one of his brothers how to maintain and clean the artificial limb.
Abdullah is now walking with the help of his new leg. He will receive new prosthetics as he grows.
Humanity & Inclusion in Yemen
Yemen has been devastated by an ongoing conflict that began in March 2015. Humanity & Inclusion teams work in nine health centers and treats patients from all over the country. Since Humanity & Inclusion began its operations in Yemen six years ago, teams have treated 30,000 people, many of them victims of the conflict. More than 3,000 people were victims of explosive weapons such as bombings, explosive remnants of war, landmines, and improvised explosive devices.
Humanity & Inclusion has provided more than 35,000 crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and other mobility aids to people in Yemen. More than 500 people have been fitted with prosthetics and orthotics through Humanity & Inclusion's collaboration with the Sana'a Physical Therapy and Prosthesis Center.
In additional to physical rehabilitation, nearly 23,000 people have received psychological support from Humanity & Inclusion. More than 800 Yemeni health workers have been trained in early trauma response. Support Yemenis with disabilities affected by the ongoing conflict.
Header image: A boy named Abdullah holds his amputated leg while waiting to be fitted with a prosthetic in Yemen. Copyright: ISNA Agency/HI
Inline image: Abdullah, 12, practices walking over obstacles with his new prosthetic leg in Yemen. Copyright: ISNA Agency/HI
After a decade of war, Syria has been completely contaminated by explosive remnants on a scale experts have never seen before. When the conflict ends, the complex work of clearing weapons and rebuilding the country will begin. Emmanuel Sauvage, Director of Armed Violence Reduction at Humanity & Inclusion, tells us more.
What makes contamination in Syria different?
There are two reasons why Syria is a special case when it comes to weapons clearance. The first is the very wide range of weapons used. After a decade of conflict, Syrian soil is contaminated by a complete spectrum of explosive weapons including unexploded bombs, explosive remnants and booby traps, and improvised mines. The second is the fact that urban areas and their outskirts are the worst affected. You find the widest range of explosive weapons in cities. We know from experience that it is particularly difficult to clear urban areas. In Raqqa, for example, where 80% of the city has been destroyed, the ground is littered with rubble mixed with explosive remnants and booby traps left behind by the belligerent parties. In Laos, they are still clearing weapons 45 years after the Vietnam War, so I think it will take at least two generations to clear Syria.
What are the obstacles to weapons clearance in Syria today?
The variety of explosive weapons used in the Syrian conflict makes clearance complex. Each type of explosive weapon works in a different way. You don’t neutralize an improvised mine in the same way as an unexploded bomb. We need to deploy different experts for different types of explosive weapons in the ground. But since there are all kinds of explosive weapons in Syria, we need many more professionals trained in these types of weapons.
Mine clearance in urban areas is particularly long and complicated. When buildings and infrastructure are destroyed in cities, the rubble is contaminated by explosive remnants. In some Syrian cities we can almost measure contamination in cubic meters because the ground is contaminated by layers of rubble and explosive remnants. This requires specific resources, professionals trained in this type of contamination, and great care to be taken when clearing and reconstructing cities.
When we talk about reconstruction, what exactly do we mean?
Reconstruction obviously begins with weapons clearance. The international community must take action to protect Syrian lives from explosive remnants. Some 11.5 million Syrians out of a total population of 17 million are currently at risk from these weapons. Weapons clearance is therefore a priority in reconstructing the country.
Then comes the actual reconstruction, which is divided into interdependent stages: the reconstruction of infrastructure and housing, economic recovery, but also restoring the link between the different communities damaged by a decade of conflict. It’s a huge challenge. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the early 2000s, apart from weapons clearance, it was important to get the communities talking to each other again in order to plan for long-term peace. Weapons clearance brought people together around a problem and shared risks, and provided a starting point for dialogue and collective initiatives. It marked the first step towards defusing the tension caused by the conflict.
We also have to think about how to support individuals. Syrians have experienced the horrors of war, and they need physical and psychological support. Physical trauma such as amputations, brain and spinal cord injuries, but also psychological trauma need specific care. I think it will take at least two generations to rebuild Syria.
Humanity & Inclusion and the Syria crisis
Since the organization began its response to the Syria crisis in 2012, Humanity & Inclusion has helped 1.8 million Syrians in six countries through emergency rehabilitation, psychological support, and supplying prosthetics and other assistive devices. As of December 2020, Humanity & Inclusion provided 14,000 prosthetics or orthotics to Syrians and conducted rehabilitation sessions with 180,000 people. Learn more about our work and the Syria crisis.
Header image: Destroyed buildings and other debris.
Inline image: Humanity & Inclusion's Emmanuel Sauvage speaks into a microphone held by a reporter at an event in France. Copyright: Basile Barbey/HI, 2020
Statement | Use of heavy explosive weapons in towns and cities in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict must stop
October 6, 2020
The use of heavy explosive weapons in the cities of Ganja and Stepanakert, and other towns and populated areas in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is killing and injuring civilians, and destroying vital infrastructure.
INEW calls on all parties to the conflict to stop the use of heavy explosive weapons in towns, cities and other populated areas due to the high risk of harm to civilians, and amid rising civilian casualties.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that hundreds of homes and infrastructure including hospitals and schools, as well as roads, electricity, gas and communications networks, have been destroyed or damaged by heavy artillery fire and by airborne attacks using missiles forcing families to leave the towns and find shelter.
Every year tens of thousands of civilians are killed and injured by bombing and shelling in urban and other populated areas using weapons designed for use in open battlefields. Many more civilians experience life-changing injuries, and suffer from destruction of homes, hospitals, schools and vital services. The use of explosive weapons is also one of the main catalysts of forced displacement, as civilians flee for safety. Unexploded ordnance left behind after a conflict has ended further impedes the safe return of civilians.
The bombing and shelling in these towns and cities highlights the needs for new international standards against the use of heavy explosive weapons in towns and cities. Heavy explosive weapons are those with wide area effects, and include weapons that produce a large blast area or spread fragments widely, weapons that deliver multiple munitions that saturate a large area, such as multiple-launch rocket systems, and inaccurate weapons where the effects of the weapon extend beyond the target. When used in cities and towns where there are concentrations of civilians, the risk of harm to civilians is great
Over 100 countries have recognized the harm caused to civilians from the use of explosive weapons in cities, towns and other populated areas. States have started discussions on the development of new international standards to adopt stronger rules against attacks using heavy explosive weapons in cities, towns and other populated areas, under the leadership of Ireland. INEW calls upon states to include in the elaboration of a political declaration, a commitment to avoid use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas.
Humanity & Inclusion comment
Humanity & Inclusion Disarmament Advocacy Manager, Alma Al Osta reacts:
“The conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is the latest example of how bombing in urban areas affect civilians. As the conflict has escalated, belligerents have used heavy bombs, killing and injuring civilians, and destroying vital infrastructure… We condemn the bombing and shelling – and the use of banned cluster munitions – that have devastating humanitarian impacts on civilians. A strong, international political declaration against bombing in populated areas is urgently needed.”
About Humanity & Inclusion
Humanity & Inclusion is a co-founder of INEW, and sits on its steering committee.
Humanity & Inclusion is an independent international aid organization, working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster for 38 years. Alongside people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, our actions and voice are focused on responding to their essential needs, improving their living conditions and promoting respect for their dignity and basic rights. Since its founding in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of Handicap International) has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. There are eight national associations within the network (Germany, Belgium, Canada, United States, France, Luxembourg, UK and Switzerland), working tirelessly to mobilize resources, co-manage projects and increase the impact of the organization’s principles and actions. Humanity & Inclusion is one of six founding organizations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize and winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Humanity & Inclusion takes action and campaigns in places where “living in dignity” is no easy task.”
In late October, HI will attend the annual meeting of the First Committee of the UN General Assembly on Disarmament and International Security in New York City. The goal of the First Committee is to influence States so that they commit themselves to find a political solution against the bombing of civilians in populated areas.
More than 130 States gather at the UN for a month to discuss different topics related to the disarmament and international security and seek out solutions to the challenges in the international security.
Raise awareness and convince States
HI, which has been committed to putting an end to the use of explosive weapons in populated areas for several years, looks forward to the opportunity to discuss the topic with States, to raise the awareness of the humanitarian disaster caused by the bombings in populated areas, and to convince them to find political solutions to this scourge.
Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa
The HI delegation will meet with other delegations from Latin America and the Caribbean States as well as African States on which the association relies heavily to advocate the cause on the international diplomatic scene. Last year, HI conducted a regional meeting with African States to raise awareness on the problems posed by the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, a topic that was quite new for most. The workshop resulted with a strong Maputo Communique endorsed by 19 African States, international organizations, and civil societies, calling for immediate political action to end the suffering cause by explosive weapons. HI is planning to hold a similar workshop this year with Latin America and the Caribbean States on December 5-6 in Santiago, Chile.
Present in many conflict-related humanitarian crises, HI witnesses the concrete consequences of explosive hazards in populated areas on a regular basis: the unacceptable number of civilian casualties, lifelong injuries and impairments, severe and long-lasting damage, and destruction to essential infrastructure and services such as schools, hospitals, housing, and water and sanitation systems. It also causes contamination for decades to come and is a driver and cause of forced displacement.
Alongside the International Network of Explosive Weapons (INEW), a coalition co-funded by HI in 2011 on strengthening the protection of civilians from the use of explosive weapons, HI will be a panelist in a side event on October 18, co-hosted by Austria, Chile, Mozambique, and Ireland.
On the same day, the INEW delegation with HI’s participation, will meet with the United Nations Under-Secretary-General of Disarmament Affairs, Mrs. Izumi Nakamitsu. In this occasion, we will repeat the urgency to put this topic as a priority on the UN Secretary General agenda for disarmament and discuss upcoming plans for work including implementation of the disarmament agenda and INEW’s activities in the upcoming period.
A movement of civil society on disarmament
HI will also be at the Humanitarian Disarmament Forum in New York on October 13 and 14. This Forum is led by civil societies working with States. Participants will explore other efforts to advance humanitarian disarmament and better protection of civilians in conflicts, such as the effort to secure a strong political declaration to prevent the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects in populated areas. HI will promote the need to continue focusing on victim assistance and highlight the case of individuals affected by explosive weapons in Syria.
Photo caption: HI co-founder Jean-Baptiste Richardier speaks about bombing in populated areas at a Pyramid of Shoes event in Lyon, France in September 2018.
On Friday April 27, 2018 at 10:40 PM, an airstrike from the Saudi led coalition hit the National Blood Transfusion and Research Center of the Al Sabeen Hospital, a building located 65 feet from the First Physiotherapy Center, where Humanity & Inclusion, which works under the name ‘Handicap International’ in Yemen, is providing support.Read more