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Aid agencies: protect civilians from the devastating impacts of the conflict in and around Marib

Joint statement

This statement was developed by a group of international aid organizations working in Yemen, including: ACTED, CARE, Danish Refugee Council, Humanity & Inclusion — Handicap International, INTERSOS, Lutheran World Relief, Medecins du Monde (MdM), Mercy Corps, Norwegian Refugee Council, Oxfam, Polish Humanitarian Action, Save the Children and ZOA.

Aid agencies operating in Yemen are deeply concerned over the humanitarian situation in and around Marib as hostilities continue to escalate resulting in dozens of civilian casualties, including women and children.

In October alone, more than 54 incidents of armed violence affecting civilians in and around Marib were recorded, resulting in over 119 civilian casualties — an increase of more than 230 per cent in civilian casualties recorded in a single month for 2021 in the area. A recent attack on 31 October, hit a religious site, killing and wounding 29 civilians, including students, women and children.[1]

More than 36,800 people have been displaced in Marib this year, [2] many of them for the third or fourth time. Protection risks for people fleeing from frontlines are of critical concern, with existing sites for internally displaced persons (IDPs) becoming increasingly overcrowded, which increases severe risks such as gender-based violence.

Of the estimated one million IDPs now in Marib city, 80 per cent are women and children. With the continuing conflict in and around Marib, displaced populations are risking once more being displaced into neighboring governorates that are already reeling from the impact of seven years of conflict. Further, we continue to operate in a challenging environment, with a massive short fall in funds, which is resulting in the current Marib response completely unable to deal with the crisis.

Humanitarian needs in Marib city far outstrip current humanitarian capacity on the ground. The city hosts hugely crowded IDP camps, an over-stretched public service and healthcare system, fragile city infrastructure and an increasingly vulnerable host community.

There are a minimal number of medical facilities and seriously depleted medical capacity in Marib city. This means that injuries caused by conflict cannot be effectively treated, with an inability to evacuate civilian casualties. In the few remaining available hospitals in the city, priority has been given for medical treatment to military personnel, and civilians have been left with little support.

In light of the deteriorating situation, and blatant disregard for civilian life, aid agencies call on all parties to the conflict to reaffirm their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including those related to humanitarian access and the protection of civilians including humanitarian and health workers. It is also critical that parties to the conflict adhere to no-target lists and mitigate damage to civilian infrastructure including mosques and other protected sites, nor use such sites to launch attacks.

The undersigned agencies reaffirm their commitments to humanitarian principles, particularly impartiality and neutrality. If hostilities continue, there needs to be measures put in place to ensure protection of civilians in Yemen, majority of which have been long overdue. It is a humanitarian imperative and our shared responsibility to ensure that lives everywhere are protected, especially civilians who have been caught up in the brutal conflict.

We therefore call on the international community, including the Human Rights Council, UN Security Council and all other bodies with relevant mandates for international peace and security and relevant member states to urgently engage with the parties to the conflict to support the following four asks:

  • Uphold obligations under International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law, including protecting civilian populations from ongoing violence and end the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and around civilian infrastructure, including schools, health facilities and mosques, as they risk severe harm to civilians, especially children.
  • Refrain from reprisal attacks, including enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention of civilians, targeting of the wounded and the sick, or purposefully destroying of civilian infrastructure.
  • Account for the particular vulnerabilities of displaced populations. There are more than one million internally displaced people in and around Marib, and as the hostilities continue and the frontlines shift, displaced populations, including women and children, are particularly vulnerable to a host of protection risks, including being blocked from essential life-saving services, and trapped in areas that they cannot flee from, without turning a blind eye to the need of the host community as well.
  • Support rapid and unimpeded access of the population in and around Marib to essential items, such as medicine, shelter, food and water that are indispensable to their survival. Further, all access constraints, including bureaucratic impediments must be removed to allow for the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance. This includes ensuring roads and other lifelines for basic supplies including food, fuel and medicine are spared destruction, civilians have freedom of movement and all roads and other lifelines remain open, protected and safe to use.

In addition to the above, parties to the conflict should be mindful of the impact the hostilities in and around Marib could have. Populations are already witnessing knock-on effect, to its neighboring governorates including congestion of services, civil unrest and displacement.

We, the aid agencies, therefore call on the parties to the conflict to take measures to ensure that the immediate and long term needs of the populations are taken into account during the conduct of hostilities. If such measures are not urgently taken, thousands of civilians will not be able to reach the assistance they need. They will continue to be killed, maimed and injured by the escalating confrontation.

Yemen is now even more at risk of complete catastrophe, with the economy already on the brink of collapse, 16 million people food-insecure, and the recent escalating hostilities across the country. Therefore, the aid agencies reiterate our urgent plea to the international community to step up and champion the immediate need to mitigate civilian casualties within the escalating hostilities.

— ENDS —

[1] These numbers are based on reports from the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project, which monitors open-source data. Numbers of actual civilian casualties may be significantly higher, but CIMP numbers have been used for consistency in reporting throughout the year. For more information about CIMP, please visit: https://civilianimpactmonitoring.org/.

[2] IOM Yemen, Displacement Tracking Matrix:

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