Medical and water infrastructure in Yemen has been hit during air raids almost 200 times since the conflict escalated more than five years ago, Oxfam said today, as the country continued to battle its outbreak of COVID 19.
That’s equivalent to one air raid every ten days during the conflict affecting hospitals, clinics, ambulances, water drills, tanks and trucks, according to an Oxfam analysis of information on airstrikes collected by the Yemen Data Project.
Arms exporting countries have profited from the sale of billions of dollars-worth of munitions to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners throughout the course of more than five years of war in Yemen, despite knowing that some of these arms could be used in violation of international humanitarian law. The conflict escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition backed the internationally recognised government against the Houthis.
Yemen reported its first case of the coronavirus in April. As of 12 August, 1845 cases and 529 deaths from COVID have been confirmed but it’s thought the true number of people affected is much higher than this.
Yemen’s medical facilities have been decimated by more than five years of war, with only half fully functional. The United Nations estimates that 20.5m people – two thirds of the population – need help to get clean water. Oxfam warned last month that thousands of people could be dying from undetected cases of cholera because COVID-19 has overwhelmed the country’s remaining health facilities.
Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director said: “Vital infrastructure like hospitals, clinics, water tanks and wells have consistently been in the cross hairs throughout this conflict. Their damage and destruction make Yemen even more vulnerable to diseases like COVID and cholera.
“Lives aren’t just lost when the bombs fall but also during the weeks, months or years it takes for hospitals and wells to be rebuilt.
“The international community cannot continue to turn a blind eye to Yemen’s suffering which is being fuelled by arms sales.”
The Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP), which collects reports of all incidents of armed violence with a direct civilian impact, has recorded 115 occasions when medical or water facilities have been hit in the last two and a half years. This includes airstrikes, shelling and small arms fire. 102 civilians died and 185 were injured in these incidents.
CIMP received reports of airstrikes on three quarantine centres – one in Saleef district of Hudaydah governorate in late March and two in Al Maljim district of Bayda governorate in early April.
So much damage has been done to civilian infrastructure, rebuilding it is likely to cost tens of billions of dollars. The UNDP has cited a 2016 damage and needs assessment which estimated the cost of damage to physical infrastructure in Yemen to be between US $4–US $5 billion, including US $79–US $97 million to water, sanitation and hygiene.
Since the confirmation of cases of coronavirus in Yemen in April, Oxfam has refocused its work to respond to the pandemic. We are working on rehabilitating the water supply to one of the main hospitals in Aden, distributing hygiene kits for the most vulnerable households, and trucking in clean water to camps for people who have had to flee their homes. Across Yemen, we’re training community health volunteers to spread the word about coronavirus and the importance of hygiene and hand washing.
Notes to Eds
The Yemen Data Project recorded 86 air raids on medical facilities and 107 on water tanks, trucks, drills and dams between 26 March 2015 and 30 June 2020.
CIMP recorded 115 incidents involving medical or water infrastructure between 1 January 2018 and 31 July 2020.
The UNDP report into the economic cost of the war is available here.