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March 25, 2019

Yemen | Conflict marks 4 years of horror

Humanity & Inclusion takes a stand against indiscriminate warfare & its devastating impact on civilians

On its Yemen Indiscriminate Warfare website published today to mark four years of conflict in Yemen, Humanity & Inclusion paints a disastrous picture of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

The organization condemns the widespread bombing of populated areas and the use of anti-personnel mines on a scale that has not been seen since the Mine Ban Treaty came into force in 1999. Humanity & Inclusion has helped to set up an emergency rehabilitation service for the war-wounded in Yemen, where it has treated more than 2,500 victims of explosive weapons since 2015. Of these, 300 were mine casualties. Most of the people treated sustain a disability due to their injuries and will need special care for the rest of their lives.

Testimonies reveal the unacceptably high proportion of civilians killed or maimed by bombing, explosive remnants of war, mines, cluster munitions, etc. ACLED has recorded 18,000 airstrikes since March 2015. Observers report the systematic and widespread use of anti-personnel mines in several of the country’s regions. Yemen is now one of the countries most heavily contaminated by explosive remnants of war, mines, improvised explosive devices and other weapons that constantly threaten the lives of civilians caught in the crossfire. Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) recorded 14,000 deaths and injuries as a result of explosive violence between 2015 and 2017. Of these 76% were civilians.

"The people we are supporting are traumatized by armed violence," says Maud Bellon, Humanity & Inclusion's Head of Mission in Yemen. "They are disoriented, shocked or depressed. Physical rehabilitation, which may lead to patients being fitted with a prosthesis, is provided alongside psychological support to help them accept their new situation: people are in shock when they lose a limb, and don’t always find it easy to accept their prosthesis. We always combine rehabilitation with psychological support - an activity often neglected in a crisis."

Working in the governorates of Sana’a and Amanat Al Asima, Humanity & Inclusion has treated 4,500 people affected by the conflict since it launched its operations in 2015. Of these, more than 2,500 are casualties of explosive weapons including bombs, explosive remnants of war and improvised explosive devices.

A significant and unprecedented proportion of people treated by Humanity & Inclusion in Yemen are mine casualties: in four years, the organization has cared for 300 casualties of these weapons banned under the Ottawa Treaty since 1999.

As mine casualties often require lower-limb amputation, to meet the specific needs of casualties, Humanity & Inclusion helped set up an emergency rehabilitation service for the war-wounded in Yemen. People injured by bombings suffer complex injuries such as open wounds, fractures, burns, loss of muscle mass and damaged nervous systems. If they fail to start rehabilitation the day after surgery, they risk serious mobility loss, often resulting in disability and social and professional exclusion, reduced income and family impoverishment.

The widespread and repeated use of explosive weapons has a domino effect. In four years, the country has collapsed into chaos. Each month, 600 infrastructures are destroyed or damaged, with health services particularly impacted. Fifty percent of medical facilities no longer function, while demand has surged. Demand for imported goods has led to rampant inflation and also shortages, particularly of food. Meanwhile, the country's counts massive population displacement, with 80% of the population now need some form of humanitarian assistance.

“As assistance is now centralized in Sana’a, thousands of civilians need to travel long distances," Bellon adds. "It takes four hours to travel by road from Al Hudaydah to Sana’a, without counting checkpoints and the risks associated with crossing the front lines. Sometimes it is impossible for people to access services.”

Some 100 makeshift camps, in Hajjah and Al Hudaydah but also in the south of the country, appear and disappear with the fighting. Three million people are displaced inside Yemen and there are an estimated one million ‘returnees’.

People are moving around all the time and we need to adapt to that," says Thomas Hugonnier, Humanity & Inclusion’s director of operations in the Middle East. "The problem is that, in Yemen, unlike in Iraq, for example, the vast majority are makeshift camps that can disappear almost overnight.” 

Alongside complex population movements, NGOs face major security and administrative obstacles that considerably limit their scope of action. It’s vitally important to ensure the safe and neutral transportation of aid to those in need," Huggonnier adds. "NGOs are working very closely together to tackle the administrative assault course we all face, daily negotiations with the authorities, and so on, but that’s not going to be enough.”

Through its "Stop Bombing Civilians” international campaign, launched in March 2016, Humanity & Inclusion calls on governments to develop a political declaration against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas in order to better protect civilians in conflict areas and assist casualties. The organization is asking the general public to sign its international petition. This petition has already been signed by 463,000 people online and offline.

 

Notes

Interview with Humanity & Inclusion’s spokesperson in Yemen available upon request

Humanity & Inclusion in Yemen

Humanity & Inclusion (working under its original name, 'Handicap International' in Yemen) works in the governorates of Sana'a and Amanat al Asima, in two rehabilitation centers and six of Yemen's largest hospitals, treating patients from across the country. It has assisted more than 20,000 people in four years, of whom 13,000 have received rehabilitation care or advice. The organization has given out more than 21,000 crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, etc. More than 20,000 people have been given psychological support. Humanity & Inclusion has fitted 200 people with artificial limbs and braces through its work with the rehabilitation and orthopedic-fitting center in Sana'a. More than 500 Yemeni health workers in Sana'a and other governorates have been sensitized and trained in early trauma response. We are starting similar activities in Aden and will soon be working in the governorate of Taizz, Hajjah and in the city of Hodeida.

About Humanity & Inclusion

Humanity & Inclusion (the new name of Handicap International) is an independent charity working in situations of poverty and exclusion, conflict and disaster. We work tirelessly alongside people with disabilities and vulnerable people to help meet their basic needs, improve their living conditions and promote respect for their dignity and fundamental rights.

Since its creation in 1982, Humanity & Inclusion has set up development programs in more than 60 countries and intervenes in numerous emergency situations. The network of 8 national associations (Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States) works constantly to mobilize resources, co-manage projects and promote the principles and actions of the organization. Humanity & inclusion is one of the six founding associations of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, and winner of the 2011 Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.