Escalating hostilities in Yemen’s Hudaydah put thousands of civilians at risk

The United Nations

Civilians in Yemen’s Hudaydah Governorate, face a growing threat from escalating clashes, with shelling of residential areas ongoing, endangering thousands.

The warning from the UN’s senior humanitarian official in the country, Auke Lootsma, follows an uptick in fighting around the crucial Red Sea port area since mid-January.

In the last three months of 2020, 153 civilian casualties were reported in the western Governorate, the highest number reported across the country.

Main victims: women and children

Women and children have been the principal victims of the violence, and scores of houses and farms have also been damaged in southern districts of the Governorate, Mr Lootsma said in a statement.

At least 700 people have been displaced to date, he added.

Houthi rebels, formally known as the Ansar Allah movement, have been fighting for control of the impoverished Arab nation against Government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, since early 2015.

“The conflict continues to exert misery on millions of lives”, said Mr. Lootsma said, insisting that those fighting paid “little or no regard” for civilians or their efforts to work.

“An immediate end to hostilities is urgently needed to allow humanitarians to conduct needs assessments and provide crucial medical support to wounded civilians and material support to those who have been displaced and lost their livelihoods,” the humanitarian official added.

Mass casualty plan

In response to the increased violence, Mr. Lootsma confirmed that partners had implemented a mass casualty plan at a hospital serving the conflict-affected areas, and provided medical items, including dressing kits for the wounded.

Describing Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Mr. Lootsma said that nearly 80 per cent of the population – more than 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian assistance and protection.

Only 56 per cent of the $3.38 billion needed for the humanitarian response in 2020 has been received.

Oil tanker inspection delayed

In a related development, the long-awaited inspection of a rusting oil tanker off the coast of Yemen has been postponed until early March, the United Nations has said.

The news follows administrative delays involved in securing the necessary international shipping documentation for the mission, “which has now been resolved” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric reportedly said on Wednesday.

The 44-year-old Safer supertanker holds 1.1 million barrels of oil. Fears of an environmental catastrophe increased last May, when the tanker sprang a leak.

It was abandoned in 2015 off the coast of Hudaydah when its engine room flooded with seawater, leaving it under the nominal control of Houthi militants – formally known as Ansar Allah – who are fighting the internationally recognized Yemeni Government.

Sticking to the new inspection timeline would depend the cooperation of the Houthis, Mr. Dujarric said.

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