People's Stories Peace

Civilians are #NotATarget
by OCHA, ICRC, IFRC, MSF, agencies
Aug. 2018
Every year World Humanitarian Day brings citizens of the world together to rally support for people living in humanitarian crises and to pay tribute to the aid workers who help them. This year, World Humanitarian Day builds on the momentum created by the 2017 #NotATarget campaign, which saw more than 2 million people take actions urging global leaders to do a better job of protecting civilians, humanitarians and health workers in conflict zones.
Civilians in conflict zones are routinely killed or maimed in targeted or indiscriminate attacks. Last year, the United Nations recorded the deaths or injuries of tens of thousands of civilians in attacks in just six conflict-affected countries: Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Iraq, Somalia and Yemen.
The failure of parties to conflict to protect civilians cannot go unchallenged. Around the world, conflict is exacting a massive toll on people’s lives. People in cities and towns struggle to find food, water and safe shelter, while fighting drives millions of people from their homes.
Children are recruited by armed groups and used to fight, and their schools are destroyed. Women are abused and humiliated.
As humanitarian workers deliver aid and medical workers treat the sick and wounded, they are directly targeted, treated as threats, and prevented from bringing relief and care to those in desperate need.
Conflict has forced record numbers of people to flee their homes, with over 65 million people now displaced, most of them within their own borders.
Humanitarians and health workers are frequently targeted in attacks and prevented from carrying out impartial humanitarian or medical activities. Since 2003, over 4,000 humanitarians have been killed, injured, detained, kidnapped and prevented from responding to those in need. That is an average of 300 cases a year. In 2017, WHO recorded 322 attacks across conflict-affected countries including Afghanistan, CAR, DRC, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Nigeria, Somalis, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria. These resulted in 242 deaths of and 229 injuries to medical personnel and patients.
There are rules governing fighters’ behaviour in war. Every time those rules are broken, human suffering intensifies. States and armed groups have clear and long established international legal obligations in conflict, including to protect civilians from harm, to spare schools and hospitals, and to ensure the safe and unimpeded passage of aid workers and supplies. Leaders and fighting forces must take active steps to spare civilians and the infrastructure they rely on.
Conflict increasingly takes place in towns and cities, injuring tens of thousands of civilians every year and laying waste to homes and vital infrastructure, including hospitals and schools, and water and power systems. More than 50 million people are currently affected by conflict in urban areas. Our global capacity to respond to these crises is increasingly overstretched.
Conflict-driven food insecurity and the potential for famine have left millions of lives hanging in the balance. Conflict is one of the main drivers of global food insecurity, in addition to climatic shock.
World leaders must ensure violators are held accountable. In his report this year on the Protection of Civilians in conflict, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on countries to undertake credible and effective investigations into allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian law and to hold perpetrators to account, with the support of the United Nations as necessary.
At the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, global leaders made commitments to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity - to undertake actions to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure in armed conflict.
This year once again, millions of citizens from around the world are demanding that world leaders and non-state actors take action to protect people caught in armed conflict.
We demand that world leaders do everything in their power to protect civilians in conflict. Civilians are #NotATarget
* Agenda for Humanity: Respect the Rules of War:
* Report of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflict:
* States must act to fulfil famine victims’ right to food, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food:

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Saudi-backed forces begin assault on Hudaydah port rising fears of humanitarian disaster
by NRC, ICRC, Unicef, OCHA, agencies
9 August 2018
UN chief condemns air strike that hit school bus in northern Yemen, killing scores of children. (UN News, agencies)
UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday condemned an air strike by pro-Yemini Government coalition forces, which killed scores of children who were on board a bus travelling through a busy market area in the northern province of Saada.
Initial news reports indicate that the number of casualties could be well above 60, with dozens severely injured. Most of the children were reported to be aged between 10 and 13.
In his statement, the UN chief called "on all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the fundamental rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack," emphasising that all parties must take "constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations".
The Secretary-General called for an "independent and prompt investigation" into this incident and extended his "deepest condolences" to the families of the victims.
The Head of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also strongly condemned the incident and urged the warring parties and international community "to do what’s right for children and bring an end to this conflict".
“Attacks on children are absolutely unacceptable,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “I’m horrified by the reported airstrike on innocent children, some with UNICEF backpacks. Enough is enough.”
“How many more children will suffer or die before those who can act, do by putting a stop to this scourge?".
“Attacking children is the lowest any party of this conflict can go,” UNICEF Yemen Resident Representative Meritxell Relaño told UN News. “There is no justification whatsoever to attacking children.”
According to the UN Children’s Fund, since conflict between pro-Government forces and Houthi rebels escalated in 2015,at least 2,400 children have been killed and over 3,600 maimed in Yemen.
The head of the UN agency called on all warring parties to “respect international humanitarian law,” and spare children, civilians and civilian infrastructure to prevent Yemen from falling “further into the abyss and humanitarian catastrophe” that it has been facing for over three years.
Attacks against civilians have been the scourge of this conflict, with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reporing, “civilians killed in violence in several governorates” in the past 10 days alone. On 3 August, during a particularly deadly attack, one of the last functioning hospitals, Al Thawra in Al Hudaydah, was struck, reportedly causing the death of dozens of vulnerable, sick and injured civilians.
“It’s hard to believe we live in a world where children should live in fear of such attacks, yet here we are. This doesn’t have to be their reality though. Parties to the conflict and those who have influence over them, including Security Council members, can and should choose to end this catastrophe for the sake of Yemen’s children,” stressed the UNICEF chief.
“We’ve said this before and we are saying it again - parties to the conflict are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. This is not a voluntary commitment - it is mandatory on all belligerents,” said Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, in the latest OCHA report on the situation there. “So many people have died in Yemen - this conflict has to stop.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the strike hit a bus filled with children at the Dahyan market in Saada.
"A hospital supported by our team in Yemen received the bodies of 29 children under the age of 15 and 48 wounded, including 30 children," the ICRC said. A spokesman for the Red Cross in Sanaa told AFP the toll was not final as casualties from the attack were taken to several hospitals.
The Save the Children charity, quoting its staff, said that at the time of the attack the children were on a bus heading back to school "from a picnic when the driver stopped to get a drink".
"Save the Children condemns this horrific attack and is calling for a full, immediate and independent investigation into this and other recent attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure," it said.
"Grotesque, shameful, indignant. Blatant disregard for rules of war when bus carrying innocent school children is fair game for attack," Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said.
Aid agency CARE International noted, "The latest air strike, only a week after the attacks on Hodeida city, demonstrates a continued disregard for human life and suffering," said Johan Mooij, the agency''s country director in Yemen. "It is beyond cruel; innocent children''s lives have been lost."
July 24, 2018 (Reuters, agencies)
Yemen is close to famine after a 25-percent increase in levels of severe hunger this year and an offensive on the main port city of Hodeida, a lifeline for millions, humanitarian organisations warned on Monday.
Thousands more people have been displaced by the conflict and many are having to skip meals and beg on the streets, they said, with an estimated 8.4 million people already on the verge of starvation.
"We perceive the country to be sitting on a knife edge in terms of famine - it could tip at any time really," Suze van Meegen, spokeswoman for the Norwegian Refugee Council, told the Thomson Reuters foundation by phone from the capital, Sanaa. "The desperation we are seeing is becoming greater - more people are begging in the streets."
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said four in every 10 children under five were now acutely malnourished, and put the number of people displaced since the Hodeida offensive began at 200,000.
"Averting famine in Yemen will be contingent on the ability of WFP and other humanity agencies to reach the populations in need to sustain humanitarian assistance," said Stephen Anderson, Yemen country director for the WFP, by phone from Sanaa.
Three thousand children on average are being displaced from Hodeidah every day, reports Save the Children
A fresh wave of violence that''s seen bombing escalate and deadly clashes erupt south of Hodeidah City is putting the lives of thousands of children in extreme danger, Save the Children is warning. Even before the latest increase in violence, an average of 6,238 people-half of whom are children-were fleeing Hodeidah Governorate every single day.
In little more than 50 days (June 1st to July 24th) the constant threat of bombing, shelling, starvation and a lack of basic services displaced a total of 330,610 people from Hodeidah according to the United Nations.
The journey for those trying to flee, however, is often no safer-with families having to brave minefields, airstrikes and being forced to cross areas of active fighting all in a bid to escape the embattled governorate.
Civilian casualties in the most impacted districts more than doubled in the start of July as the fighting moved to more populated areas, according to the UN''s Refugee Agency.
Even if they make it out, the villages and communities where they flee to are overwhelmed and simply can''t cope with the influx of people or provide them with essential services. This is putting the whole country at risk, leaving the most vulnerable living in crowded conditions and struggling to find enough food, water or medicine to survive. This could lead to extreme food insecurity or an outbreak of cholera, measles or diphtheria, diseases that have already taken hold in Yemen and disproportionately affect weak and/or malnourished children-leaving an already weakened health system on the verge of collapse.
Save the Children''s Yemen Country Director, Tamer Kirolos, has just returned from Hodeidah. He described what he saw there:
"Since I was last here just two months ago, Hodeidah City has become somewhat of a ghost town. The streets are empty even in the day and there are checkpoints everywhere. The devastation that airstrikes and shelling have caused is clear to see."
"Hodeidah was already the poorest governorate in Yemen-which is the poorest country in the Middle East-before this latest offensive and it simply can''t handle another blow. People fear they will die whether they stay or they flee but even if they manage to get out their lives remain in danger. With the economy in tatters and health and sanitation facilities throughout the country destroyed, conditions are now rampant for disease and starvation to spread. Aid agencies are doing what they can to keep people alive but ultimately, our efforts are just a sticking plaster on a gaping wound."
"We must see an immediate ceasefire to avoid any more civilian casualties and we call on all parties to continue to negotiate with the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in good faith, to achieve a workable peace deal that will bring an end to this brutal war and to the suffering of 22 million people in Yemen."
June 2018
Pro-government forces in Yemen, backed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Gulf States, have begun attacking the coastal city of Hudaydah held by Houthi rebel fighters. The city is a key port where most commercial goods and humanitarian aid arrives in Yemen.
The military strikes began after Houthi rebels ignored a deadline to withdraw from the city by midnight.
The port is a lifeline for the majority of Yemen''s population and the UN had been trying to get parties to the conflict to reach a deal that would avert an attack.
An estimated 600,000 people live in the area. Robert Mardini, regional head for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said the attack was "likely to exacerbate an already catastrophic humanitarian situation".
''Lifelines to the outside world must be maintained, including the Hodeida port and the Sana''a airport. Real people, real families, will suffer if no food is getting in, and we are concerned that ongoing military operations continue to hamper the arrival of essential goods.
We are concerned about Hodeida''s essential infrastructure, including its water and electricity networks, which are vital to the civilian population''s survival.
The ICRC urges all parties to the conflict to respect civilian life by taking every possible measure to protect civilians, and to allow safe passage for those who want to escape the fighting''.
"Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict have to do everything possible to protect civilians and ensure they have access to the assistance they need to survive," Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told Reuters news agency.
The organization warned the coalition against striking the city amid concerns a battle could worsen one of the world''s worst humanitarian crises and cause some 250,000 deaths in a worst-case scenario. International UN officials were ordered to leave the city on Monday.
BBC correspondent Nawal Al-Maghafi:
''If the battle is prolonged, it will leave millions of Yemenis without food, fuel and other vital supplies.. In reality, families in Hudaydah are already starving and desperately relying on humanitarian aid. Reporting from the city last year, I saw children who were severely undeveloped, their ribs protruding. They were living off a peanut-based paste provided by aid agencies. The hospitals were desperately trying to do what they could but were overwhelmed by cases of malnutrition and cholera. Now this battle threatens to push these people completely over the brink. Meanwhile, the possibility of the warring sides returning to the negotiating table seems even more remote''.
Atrocity Alert No. 109, 13 June 2018: Yemen - Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
Today, 13 June, a major military offensive on the Red Sea port of Hodeidah began following an intensification of fighting between Yemeni government forces - backed by a Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE)-led military coalition - and Houthi fighters. Saudi and UAE-backed government forces are on the southern outskirts of the Houthi-controlled city of 600,000 people. On Monday, 11 June, it was reported that an estimated 600 people had been killed during fighting in the al-Durayhmi and Bayt al-Faqih areas. The UAE reportedly gave all humanitarian workers in Hodeidah three-days to evacuate prior to launching today''s offensive.
Yemen is currently the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with 10.4 million people at risk of famine. Hodeidah is the entry point for 70 percent of the aid upon which over 22 million Yemenis depend. The attack on Hodeidah places millions more people at risk of starvation and could violate UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolutions 2140 and 2216, regarding obstruction of the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
On Friday, 8 June, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that a sustained battle or siege of Hodeidah could lead to the deaths of as many as 250,000 civilians.
Since 2015 all parties to the conflict in Yemen have used indiscriminate weapons in civilian populated areas and targeted civilian infrastructure, amounting to possible war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Norwegian Refugee Council''s Country Director in Yemen Mohamed Abdi said:
"Hodeida port is no less than Yemen''s lifeline. Yemen is almost totally reliant on imported food, medicine and fuel, up to 80 percent of which historically reached the country through Hodeida. An attack on the port would damage pivotal food and fuel pipeline for millions, risking deepening Yemen''s already acute food and health crisis"
"Any attack will have catastrophic consequences for civilians - risking hundreds of thousands of lives. We call on all parties to the conflict to refrain from any further military activities in and around Hodeida city."
"We urge the US, UK and France - as those country that can influence the Coalition - to immediately issue a clear and unequivocal warning against an attack on Hodeida city or port. These countries, working closely with the UN Special Envoy, have a critical role to play to prevent further suffering in Yemen, which is already the world''''s worst humanitarian crisis."
Attack on Hodeidah multiplies horror and death in Yemen - CARE
As the offensive on the key Yemeni port of Hodeidah has begun, CARE International in Yemen warns that this will have a catastrophic impact on the civilian population. “We have had more than 30 airstrikes within 30 minutes this morning around the city. Some civilians are entrapped, others forced from their homes. We thought it could not get any worse, but unfortunately we were wrong,” says Jolien Veldwijk, CARE’s acting Country Director in Yemen.
“This attack risks more people dying, but it also risks cutting the lifeline of millions of Yemenis. Food imports already reached the lowest levels since the conflict started and the price of basic commodities has risen by a third. We are gravely concerned that parts of the population could experience famine,” says Veldwijk.
According to the UN more than a quarter million people could lose everything, including their lives. The civil war in Yemen has already cost the lives of more than 10,000 people, and is labelled as today’s worst humanitarian disaster. More than 22 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection, more than 8 million people already face the risk of starvation.
“The attack on Hodeidah as the main point of entry for aid in Yemen will multiply horror and death in Yemen,” says Veldwijk. “We urge all parties to refrain from any further military activities in and around Hodeidah city and the port. People are already exhausted, starving, and have no means to cope with any further escalation of war.”
UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore:
“As Hodeida faces the threat of an assault, I am extremely concerned about the impact it will have on children in this port city and beyond.
“UNICEF estimates that at least 300,000 children currently live in and around Hodeidah city – boys and girls who have been suffering for so long already.
“Millions more children throughout Yemen depend on the humanitarian and commercial goods that come through that port every day for their very survival. Without food imports, one of the world’s worst malnutrition crises will only worsen. Without fuel imports, critical for water pumping, people’s access to drinking water will shrink further, leading to even more cases of acute watery diarrhea and cholera, both of which can be deadly for small children.
“There are 11 million children in need of humanitarian aid in this war-torn country. Choking off this lifeline will have devastating consequences for every one of them''''.

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