Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, addressed the Security Council of the United Nations 17 October about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, including severe water challenges in the strife-torn country.
He declared that Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the largest relief operation with more than 250 humanitarian agencies working through the UN response plan. A relief effort is reaching 12 million people each month.
In the past year, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has focused on five key areas in Yemen: the protection of civilians; humanitarian access; funding for the aid operation; support for the economy; and a political solution.
With respect to the protection of civilians, a number of air strikes in September killed an average of 13 people each day and a UN-supported water system that serves 12,000 people. Lowcock emphasized that this was the fourth time the facility has been hit since 2016.
While the violence continues, OCHA is calling for a nationwide ceasefire and renewed efforts to enforce the parties to uphold obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Lowcock commented that humanitarian access is challenging given the harassment, interference and restrictions imposed by the authorities. Specifically, he mentioned that local authorities blocked humanitarian assessments in Hajjah and Hudaydah, where the authorities revealed that 12,000 families had been affected by floods.
The UN also would also like to assess the situation of a decaying oil tanker as the first step in preventing a major potential environmental and humanitarian catastrophe in the Red Sea.
Lowcock emphasized that Government regulations of commercial fuel imports have contributed to severe fuel shortages in many areas. Fuel is essential to transport food to markets, pump drinking water and power sanitation systems. Nearly three-quarters of hospitals rely on fuel to provide care, and aid organizations need fuel for their work.
As severe shortages gripped many areas in recent weeks, fuel prices doubled or even tripled, pushing the cost of food and drinking water (which many people already could not afford) even higher.
Without fuel, municipal water systems in three cities simply stopped working altogether, and others cut back services. Sanitation plants reduced operations. Large quantities of human, animal and commercial waste accumulated in the streets, greatly exacerbating the risk of cholera and other diseases.
Lowcock concluded by asserting that the humanitarian efforts will continue but called for a political solution to end the war.