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Civil society organisations call on UN Security Council to take action to save lives in Yemen

Fri - (26 May 2017) - Press Releases

Twenty-two international and Yemeni humanitarian and human rights organisations, including Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee and Oxfam, today called on members of the UN Security Council – in particular the United Kingdom – to end its year-long inaction on Yemen, and move decisively to end what is now the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.

"The Security Council can and must do more to protect civilians from the horrors of cholera, hunger and indiscriminate attacks by all parties to the conflict," the organisations said.

Seven million Yemenis are at risk of famine, more than 50,000 have been killed or wounded by the conflict, and now the country is in the grip of a public health emergency with 40,000 suspected cholera cases. The catastrophe is man-made, the organisations said, exacerbated by arms sales to the parties to the conflict who are using them against civilians.

The UN Security Council (UNSC) has not taken meaningful action on the conflict in over a year, during which the humanitarian situation has drastically worsened. The United Kingdom is the UNSC ‘pen-holder’ on the situation in Yemen, meaning it is responsible for initiating any UNSC action on Yemen, including drafting a resolution or a statement.

Kjetil Øsnor, Regional Programme Manager for Oxfam, a signatory to the letter, added: "Political inaction in the face of repeated and blatant violations of international law by all parties to the conflict has culminated in conditions for famine and disease to take hold in Yemen. Security Council action now is critical to scale up the cholera response and prevent millions of people from starving to death."

A letter signed by the 22 organisations, available online and copied below, called on Security Council members to work to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, and to ensure that parties to the conflict take concrete steps including, at a minimum:

  • Ensure the full and effective functioning of Hudaydah port, including by installing four new cranes that are available, ending excessive delays for ships delivering essential commodities, and ruling out the proposed military attack on the port;
  • Re-open Sana’a airport to commercial flights, so increased humanitarian supplies can get in and people seeking medical treatment can leave;
  • Enable the effective functioning of the Central Bank so public sector salaries can be paid; and
  • Comply with international humanitarian and human rights law, including by ensuring the safety of civilians and releasing arbitrarily held detainees.

The organisations also called upon countries, including members of the Security Council, who are fuelling the conflict by supplying arms that are at risk of being used in the conflict, to cease doing so immediately.

Ms. Rahdya al-Mutawakel, Chairperson of the Yemen-based Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights, said: “May 30 is an important opportunity that the Security Council should seize without hesitation to bring an end to the constant and grave human rights violations that all parties to the conflict have inflicted on civilians across Yemen. We appeal to all governments, but especially Security Council members, to come together and ensure the practical steps are taken that will help Yemen avert the twin nightmares of a cholera epidemic and famine. Your action will give the people of Yemen hope."


To all United Nations Security Council Members 

25 May 2017

UN Security Council must act to end man-made humanitarian crisis in Yemen

We the undersigned organisations call upon UN Security Council members to take action to bring about an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, end the humanitarian crisis and support the UN Special Envoy's efforts towards an inclusive political solution to the conflict. 

The Security Council can and must do more to protect civilians from the horrors of cholera, hunger and indiscriminate attacks by all parties to the conflict. The scale and speed of the multiple crises demand that the Security Council breaks its year-long inaction on Yemen. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is now the largest in the world, with more than 18 million people in need of assistance and 7 million already at risk of famine. These figures come on top of over 50,000 casualties due to armed conflict. 

The escalating cholera outbreak is a public health emergency that brings a new sense of urgency to an already acute situation. There are already over 40,000 suspected cholera cases across 19 of Yemen's 22 governorates, over 400 deaths, and the World Health Organisation predicts that as many as 300,000 people across Yemen could be infected within six months. 

Yemen's crisis is man-made. It is a direct result of the armed conflict and cannot be solved with aid alone. It requires a political solution. It also requires that countries, including members of the Security Council, who are fuelling the conflict by supplying arms that are at risk of being used in the conflict cease doing so immediately.

There are concrete actions the Security Council can help to initiate that will immediately and positively impact the lives of Yemenis. These actions can build confidence and momentum towards a political break-through. As the penholder on Yemen in the Security Council, responsibility to lead the international response to the multiple crises in Yemen rests primarily with the United Kingdom. When the Security Council meets on 30 May to be briefed on Yemen, we call on the United Kingdom with the support of all Security Council members to make a clear and unequivocal commitment to take the following actions: 

  • Recognise that Yemen's man-made humanitarian crisis has dramatically worsened and is taking a massive toll on civilians, who are the primary victims.
  • Demand that parties to the conflict comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law, including that they ensure the safety of civilians, cease targeting civilian infrastructure, halt the use of illegal and indiscriminate weapons and refrain from impeding humanitarian access and supply through either bureaucratic delays or direct threats.
  • Demand that the parties to the conflict comply with their obligations under international human rights law, including that they release all people who are arbitrarily detained, allow civil society organisations to operate freely, and ensure accountability for those who are responsible for alleged breaches of international law.
  • Demand that all parties to the conflict ensure the full and effective functioning of the vital lifeline of Hudaydah Port, based on the recommendations of the UN Security Council Panel of Experts on Yemen. In the first instance, this means ensuring that this critical access route is protected from attack as well as the immediate installation of the four new cranes that are available to increase the speed at which essential imports are processed. Furthermore, the situation requires new inspection reporting requirements and strengthened support for the unhindered implementation of UNVIM’s mandate to ensure the consistent and swift supply of essential commodities, including an end to excessive delays imposed on vessels cleared by UNVIM.
  • Demand the re-opening of Sana’a airport for commercial flights so that additional humanitarian supplies can enter the country and people in need of medical treatment can leave.
  • Call on the parties to the conflict to cooperate with the Special Envoy to work expeditiously on a plan to resume the effective functioning of the Central Bank, thereby enabling the payment of public sector salaries as well as the disbursement of social-welfare cash transfers.

These actions collectively constitute the minimum acceptable response from the Security Council if we are to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and reinvigorate the UN-led political dialogue, which is critical to finding an end to the conflict. 

The people of Yemen cannot wait any longer for Security Council action.



  1. Action Against Hunger
  2. Arab Program for Human Rights Activists
  3. Avaaz
  4. Christian Aid
  5. Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect
  6. Handicap International
  7. International Rescue Committee
  8. Islamic Relief
  9. Medecins du Monde
  10. Mercy Corps
  11. Mwatana Organisation for Human Rights (Yemen)
  12. Oxfam
  13. Physicians for Human Rights
  14. Saferworld
  15. Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies (Yemen)
  16. Save the Children
  17. Society for Threatened Peoples
  18. Tearfund
  19. The Arab Center for the Promotion of Human Rights
  20. The Yemen Peace Project
  21. War Child UK
  22. Wogood for Human Security (Yemen)

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