One air raid every ten days on hospitals, clinics, wells and water tanks throughout Yemen war

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COVID quarantine centres reportedly hit in March and April

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.

British arms have been used by the coalition in the conflict; the fragment of a bomb supplied by the UK was found at the site of an attack on Abs Hospital in Hajjah governorate which killed 19 civilians and injured 24 more in August 2016.

Last month, the UK government announced it would resume licensing arms to Saudi Arabia after suspending activity in 2019 following an appeal court ruling that British arms could be being used in Yemen in violation of international humanitarian law.

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.

Ruth Tanner, Oxfam’s Head of Humanitarian Campaigns said: “Hospitals, clinics, water tanks and wells are vital to protect people from disease and should never be the targets of military action. And yet, they’ve consistently been in the cross hairs throughout this conflict.

“The damage is not only done when the bombs fall but during the weeks, months and years it takes to rebuild hospitals and wells while people succumb to injuries and disease.

“The UK government needs to show it can be a global leader by ending the licensing of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other coalition members, which are fuelling this conflict.”

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.

On 7 July, the UK government said it had assessed possible violations of international humanitarian law in Yemen involving British arms and concluded that there were no patterns or trends and that all 516 were isolated incidents. It said it had therefore decided to restart the licensing of arms to Saudi Arabia.

So much damage has been done to civilian infrastructure, rebuilding it is likely to cost tens of billions of pounds. 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 editors:

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.

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