USG/ERC Stephen O’Brien's Statement to the UN Security Council on Missions to Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Kenya
Editor's Note: We recommend Charity Navigator for a donation source of rated organizations for giving; we have used it as a journalistic source for objective ratings.
REPORT from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; Published on 10 Mar 2017
Right, Stephen O'Brien, The United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator; the Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator is Ursula Mueller
Mr. President, Council members,
Thank you for inviting me to brief on my visits to countries facing famine or at risk of famine: Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia. I will also briefly mention the outcomes of the Oslo Conference on the Lake Chad Basin.
I need to mention that I also visited Northern Kenya where pastoralists are worst affected by the terrible drought. Over 2.7 million Kenyans are now food insecure, a number likely to reach 4 million by April. In collaboration with the Government, the UN will soon launch an appeal of $200 million to provide timely life-saving assistance and protection. For what follows however, I will focus on my other visits over the past 16 days.
I turn first to Yemen. It’s already the largest humanitarian crisis in the world and the Yemeni people now face the spectre of famine. Today, two-thirds of the population — 18.8 million people — need assistance and more than 7 million are hungry and do not know where their next meal will come from. That is 3 million people more than in January. As fighting continues and escalates, displacement increases. With health facilities destroyed and damaged, diseases are sweeping through the country.
I spoke with people in Aden, Ibb, Sana’a and from Taizz. They told me horrific stories of displacement, escaping unspeakable violence and destruction from Mokha andTaizzcity inTaizzgovernorate. I saw first-hand the effects of losing home and livelihood: malnourishment, hunger and squalid living conditions in destroyed schools, unfinished apartments and wet, concrete basements. In the past two months alone, more than 48,000 people fled fighting, mines and IEDs from Mokha town and the surrounding fields alone. I met countless children, malnourished and sick. My small team met a girl displaced to Ibb, still having shrapnel wounds in her legs while her brother was deeply traumatized. I was introduced to a 13-year-old girl who fled from Taizzcity, left in charge of her seven siblings. I spoke with families who have become displaced to Aden as their homes were destroyed by airstrikes living in a destroyed school. All of them told me three things: they are hungry and sick – and they need peace so that they can return home.
I travelled to Aden on the first humanitarian UN flight, where I met the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Republic of Yemen. I also met with the senior leadership of the Houthi and General People’s Congress authorities in Sana’a. I discussed the humanitarian situation, the need to prevent a famine and to better respect international humanitarian law and protect civilians. I demanded full, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access. All counterparts promised to facilitate sustained access and respect international humanitarian law. Yet all parties to the conflict are arbitrarily denying sustained humanitarian access and politicize aid. Already, the humanitarian suffering that we see in Yemen today is caused by the parties and proxies and if they don’t change their behaviour now, they must be held accountable for the inevitable famine, unnecessary deaths and associated amplification in suffering that will follow.
ERC Stephen O’Brien visited the protected site adjacent to the UNMISS base in Wau, where more than 20,000 people were seeking protection as a result of conflict. Credit: IOM/Mohammed 2016
Despite the almost impossible and terrifying conditions, the UN and humanitarian partners are not deterred and are stepping up to meet the humanitarian needs across the country. In February alone, 4.9 million people received food assistance. We continue to negotiate access and make modest gains. For instance, despite assurances from all parties of safe passage toTaizzcity, I was denied access and retreated to a short safe distance when I and my team came under gunfire. Yet, we managed to use this experience to clear the path for reaching people inside Taizzcity with a first humanitarian truck delivery of eight tons of essential medicine on the Ibb toTaizzcity road since August 2016. We will not leave a stone unturned to find alternative routes. We must prevail as so many lives depend on us, the full range of the humanitarian family.
For 2017, the humanitarian community requires US$ 2.1 billion to reach 12 million people with life-saving assistance and protection in Yemen. Only 6 percent of that funding has been received thus far. An international ministerial-level pledging event is scheduled for 25 April, but the situation is so dire that I ask donors to give urgently now. All contributions and pledges since 1 January will be counted at the event.
I continue to reiterate the same message to all: it is only a political solution that will ultimately end human suffering and bring stability to the region. And at this stage, only a combined response with the private sector can stem a famine: commercial imports must be allowed to resume through all entry points in Yemen, including and especially Hudaydah port, which must be kept open and expanded. With access and funding, humanitarians will do more, but we are not the long-term solution to this growing crisis.
I am pleased as I said to confirm that a ministerial-level pledging event for the humanitarian response in Yemen for 2017 will take place in Geneva on 25 April. The Secretary-General will chair the event, co-hosted by the Foreign Ministers of Sweden and Switzerland, to advocate for more resources and access. For 2017, as mentioned, the Yemen humanitarian response plan asks for US$2.1 billion to assist 12 million people in need across all 22 governorates.
Turning to South Sudan which I visited on 4 and 5 March. The situation is worse than it has ever been. The famine in South Sudan is man-made. Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine — as are those not intervening to make the violence stop.
More than 7.5 million people need assistance, up by 1.4 million from last year. About 3.4 million people are displaced, of which almost 200,000 have fled South Sudan since January alone. A localized famine was declared for Leer and Mayendit [counties] on 20 February, an area where violence and insecurity have compromised humanitarian access for years. More than one million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished across the country; including 270,000 children who face the imminent risk of death should they not be reached in time with assistance. Meanwhile, the cholera outbreak that began in June 2016 has spread to more locations.
I travelled to Ganyiel in Unity state where people have fled from the horrors of famine and conflict. I saw the impact humanitarians can have to alleviate suffering. I met an elderly woman with her malnourished grandson receiving treatment. I listened to women who fled fighting with their children through waist-high swamps to receive food and medicine. Some of these women have experienced the most appalling acts of sexual violence — which continues to be used as a weapon of war. Their harrowing stories are only a few among thousands who have suffered a similar fate across the country.
Humanitarians are delivering. Last year, partners reached more than 5.1 million people with assistance. However, active hostilities, access denials and bureaucratic impediments continue to curtail their efforts to reach people who desperately need help. Aid workers have been killed; humanitarian compounds and supplies have been attacked, looted, and occupied by armed actors. Recently, humanitarians had to leave one of the famine-affected counties because of fighting. Assurances by senior Government officials of unconditional access and no bureaucratic impediments now need to be turned into action on the ground.
In Somalia, more than half the population — 6.2 million people — need humanitarian and protection assistance, including 2.9 million who are at risk of famine and require immediate assistance to save or sustain their lives, close to 1 million children under the age of 5 will be acutely malnourished this year. In the last two months alone, nearly 160,000 people have been displaced due to severe drought conditions, adding to the already 1.1 million people who live in appalling conditions around the country.
Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ursula Mueller
What I saw and heard during my visit to Somalia was distressing — women and children walk for weeks in search of food and water. They have lost their livestock, water sources have dried up and they have nothing left to survive on. With everything lost, women, boys, girls and men now move to urban centres.
Pages: 1 · 2
- How Has the Prescription Opioid Epidemic Affected Pediatric Hospitalization Rates in the United States?
- An Expert Assesses Personal Security in An On-edge America
- Weapon-related Violence Among African American, Latino and White Adolescents
- Floor Action, Hearings & Bills Introduced: Terrorist Financing; Terrorist Sanctuaries, Threat to US Homeland & Sexual Violence
- Forget Cherishing Women: Family-friendly Policies Are Essential Tools in Fighting Income Inequality
- Culture Watch Mystery Reviews: Female Sleuths, Violent Crimes and Exotic Cultures
- Frontline's Rape on the Night Shift: As Most of Us Head Home, Janitors, Many of Them Women, Begin Their Work
- Senate Subcommittees Holds Hearings on Global Violence Against Women & Campus Sexual Assault
- Jackie Speier: Proposing Legislation to Change the Military Justice System’s Treatment of Cases of Rape and Sexual Assault
- Women: Underrepresented in Film but Twice As Likely in Explicit Sexual Scenes