GENEVA: Yemen is “crumbling” under a deepening humanitarian crisis after months of civil war, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday.
Peter Maurer, ending a three-day visit to the Arabian Peninsula country, called for free access to deliver life-saving food, water and medicines, while urging the warring parties to work towards a negotiated solution.
“The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic. Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict…The world needs to wake up to what is going on,” Maurer said in a statement.
Nearly 4,000 people have been killed and 1.3 million forced to flee their homes during the conflict, he said.
A political crisis in Yemen descended into civil war in March when Iranian-allied Houthi forces who had seized the capital Sanaa advanced south toward the main port of Aden, forcing President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led Arab military coalition began a bombing campaign against the Houthis on March 26 to restore Hadi and fend off what they see as Iranian influence in their backyard. Houthi forces have since been pushed back on several fronts.
“The compounded effects of intense fighting and import restrictions are having a dramatic impact on health care. Health facilities have been massively attacked as well as suffering collateral damage,” said Maurer.
“Medicines can’t get in so patient care is falling apart. Fuel shortages mean equipment doesn’t work. This cannot go on. Yemen is crumbling. As a matter of urgency, there must be free movement of goods into and across the country … Much more needs to be done.”
Since January, the ICRC — one of the few international relief agencies left in Yemen — has helped supply water to more than two million people and provided food and other essentials for more than 100,000, the statement said.
The ICRC employs over 250 staff in Yemen, including 45 expatriates. It has doubled its operational budget for Yemen in the course of 2015 to 56 million Swiss francs ($56.91 million).