With the escalation of the conflict in Yemen, a spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called on the international community to step up humanitarian aid for the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.
“People are concerned that if airstrikes intensify, it might lead to more civilian casualties, but also civilian facilities may get hit,” Fatima Sator, ICRC spokesperson, told Xinhua in an interview.
“It’s important to remember that Yemen is now in its ninth year of conflict and that people cannot afford more stress, more uncertainty, more anxiety,” said Sator.
According to ICRC data, more than 2,500 schools have been damaged or destroyed and 2 million children are out of school. About 70 percent of the population does not have access to drinking water, while more than 50 percent of the population does not have access to health care.
An estimated 20.1 million people lack access to basic healthcare, while 51 percent of health facilities are functioning and less than 50 percent of births are attended by skilled health personnel.
The Geneva-based organization also warned that over 5 million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine as the conflict and economic decline have left families struggling to find enough food to get through the day.
“The population is exhausted,” said Sator. “The economy is on the brink of collapse. Water and electricity are almost not available. Half of the healthcare facilities have been either destroyed, or don’t have supplies, or the staff needed to function.”
The recent situation in the Red Sea has worsened due to ongoing humanitarian crises. The Houthis have intensified their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas conflict in October, while the United States and Britain keep launching new airstrikes on Houthi targets in the country, posing challenges for civilians.
Sator appealed to the international community to step up its humanitarian aid and financial contributions to support its operations.
“We have been among the only organizations to support authorities to address the needs related to unexploded ordinances, as there are many explosive remnants of war in Yemen still killing or injuring civilians. We also provide humanitarian demining equipment and protective equipment to the demining authorities,” she said.
Yemen has one of the highest rates of contamination with landmines and other deadly explosives in the world.
Experts estimate that roughly one million mines have been planted during Yemen’s years of turmoil, causing a daily hazard along with unexploded shells and other military detritus.
“An important part of the International Committee of the Red Cross mandate is also to remind parties to the conflict of the respect for international humanitarian law,” Sator said. “In our role as a neutral intermediary last year, we were able to conduct a large operation to release 900 former detainees and reunite them with their families. In 2022, 4 million Yemenis have benefited from ICRC interventions across Yemen.”
“We urge donors to continue to fund Yemen, which still faces increasing uncertainty and to simply not forget Yemen. We cannot afford for Yemen to become just a forgotten crisis,” said the spokesperson.