COVID-19 quarantine centers 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 battles with an ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, US arms sales to the parties to the conflict have continued despite the damage.
One air raid every ten days on average during the conflict has affected hospitals, clinics, ambulances, and water drills, tanks and trucks, according to an Oxfam analysis of information on airstrikes collected by the Yemen Data Project.
Weapons manufacturers in arms exporting countries like the United States have profited from the sale of billions of dollars worth of munitions to Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners, despite clear evidence that they were using US-made bombs in violations of international humanitarian law. The conflict escalated in March 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition backed the internationally recognized government against the Houthis.
An investigation led by former State Department Inspector General Steve Linick had concluded that the Trump administration did not consider the impacts of arms sales to the coalition on Yemeni civilians, though they are required to do so under the Arms Export Control Act and the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Though the Trump administration attempted to bypass Congress by declaring a fake emergency, bipartisan resolutions of disapproval to the arms sales were passed by Congress. The sales only proceeded after President Trump vetoed the resolutions.
Yemen reported its first case of the Coronavirus in April. As of August 17th, 1,886 COVID-19 cases and 536 deaths 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-19 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 fueled 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 also received reports of airstrikes on three COVID-19 quarantine centers – one in Saleef district of Hudaydah governorate in late March and two in Al Maljim district of Bayda governorate in early April.
Rebuilding is likely to cost tens of billions of dollars because of the extensive damage to civilian infrastructure caused by the parties to the conflict. The UNDP has cited a 2016 damage and needs assessment which estimated the cost of damage to physical infrastructure in Yemen to be between $4–US $5 billion, including $79–$97 million to water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure.
Since the confirmation of cases of the Coronavirus in Yemen in April, Oxfam has refocused its work to respond to the pandemic, 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, Oxfam is 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 March 26, 2015 and June 30, 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.