Consultations on Humanitarian Situation in Yemen
Security Council members will meet today (Saturday, 4 April) at 11 am for consultations on the humanitarian situation in Yemen, with a focus on the possibility of having “humanitarian pauses” in the conflict in Yemen. The meeting was requested yesterday afternoon by Russia. As there will apparently be no briefers, Council members may use the opportunity for a more interactive exchange on how to address the crisis. It is unclear whether there will be a Council decision following the meeting. However, it is possible that a draft resolution prepared by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries may be discussed. There have been ongoing negotiations among the P5, Jordan and the GCC members over the past week and a half on a draft resolution on the Yemen crisis but the draft has not been circulated to the larger membership.
Events in Yemen have moved rapidly since Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubair announced in the evening of 25 March in Washington that Saudi Arabia was commencing military action with a number of other countries against the Houthis, in response to President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s request to repel their advance against Aden and other cities in Yemen. Since then there has been a continuing air campaign led by Saudi Arabia with participation of Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates. The US announced it was providing logistical and intelligence support. In addition to air strikes, Saudi naval forces have imposed a blockade on Aden and Hodeida ports, and clashes between the Houthis and Saudi forces have occurred along the border. A 26 March statement transmitted to the Security Council and the Secretary-General by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait informed the Council and the Secretary-General about their decision to respond to Hadi’s 24 March request to GCC states to intervene citing Article 51 of the UN Charter which allows for collective or individual self-defence (S/2015/217).
The impact of the fighting on the civilian population has prompted statements from UN officials and human rights and humanitarian organisations. While actual numbers have been difficult to verify, it appears that an airstrike on 30 March killed dozens of people at the Al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced in northern Yemen. Another apparent airstrike also resulted in a number of civilian deaths at a dairy factory in Hodeida on 1 April. Following the 30 March strike, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said that Yemen appeared “on the verge of total collapse” and expressed alarm about the deteriorating human rights situation. He also said he was shocked by the incident at Al-Mazraq and condemned reported strikes by a Houthi affiliated brigade against three hospitals in Dhale. OCHA chief Valerie Amos in a 2 April statement noted that reports from humanitarian partners in the country indicate that 519 people had been killed and nearly 1,700 injured in the past two weeks, while tens of thousands have been displaced with some leaving Yemen by sea for Djibouti and Somalia. UNICEF reported on 31 March that at least 62 children had been killed in Yemen the previous week.
On 31 March, both Medecins Sans Frontieres and the International Committee for the Red Cross released statements on their inability to deliver necessary medical supplies to the country due to the closure of Yemen’s airports and seaports.
Members will likely be interested in discussing possible ways of enabling greater delivery of aid, including through the possibility of obtaining humanitarian pauses in the fighting to allow for the delivery of humanitarian supplies and possible evacuation of citizens and personnel from Yemen. Additionally, since this will be their first meeting since the Saudi-led intervention began, Council members may wish to discuss the changed situation more broadly and brainstorm about the prospects for moving forward on the political front.