As the deadline neared for the start of a brief humanitarian pause in fighting that has gripped Yemen for nearly two months, International Medical Corps welcomed the break as a respite from violence for a beleaguered and conflict-weary population.
“We plan to use the pause to resupply our teams with critical resources that will enable us to extend the scope and reach of our humanitarian assistance to those who so desperately need it,” said Chris Skopec, International Medical Corps’ Senior Director, Emergency Preparedness and Response.
However, Skopec also underscored that what can be brought into the country in the brief period of just a few days can meet only a small portion of what is required to restore the level of basic supplies to acceptable levels for Yemen’s hard-pressed population.
“We recognize the severe limitations the pause will have when compared to the massive scale of need that the conflict has wrought on Yemen’s civilian population,” Skopec noted. “At a bare minimum, in order to avoid a human catastrophe we will need ongoing humanitarian access as well as the resumption of commercial shipping lanes into the country so that urgently needed goods and services can become more generally available.”
Yemen, a country that imports 100% of its fuel, 90% of its food and 80% of its medicines, has effectively been under a blockade since fighting began in mid-March.
According to a statement released May 6th by 22 aid agencies operating in Yemen, even before the fighting began, 60% of the country’s population was in need of humanitarian assistance and half the population had no access to clean water and sanitation. The organizations estimated that today about 80% of the population is food insecure in need of outside support.
The number of children suffering from malnutrition has also effectively doubled from 800,000 to about 1.6 million since the fighting began. Fuel used to produce electricity for such critically important tasks as water pumps, is also in short supply. In much of Yemen, water pumps are essential to provide drinking water that often lies up to two miles below ground.
International Medical Corps has been operating in Yemen since 2012, with three offices and a staff of over 175. Our mobile medical teams are on the ground working to provide lifesaving medical treatment and nutrition services in some of the hardest hit locations in the country. We are also delivering vital medications and supplies to 78 primary health facilities and 13 hospitals.