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Conflict taking 'immense' toll on Yemen civilians, UN relief official warns

23 April 2015 – Escalating conflict in Yemen over the past month has worsened the already large-scale humanitarian crisis, the top United Nations relief official for the country said today, warning that the upsurge in violence has further deepened the hardships faced by ordinary Yemenis.

"Fighting and coalition airstrikes have impacted virtually the entire country. The toll on civilians has been immense," said a press statement from Johannes Van Der Klaauw, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.

Since 19 March 2015, conservative estimates indicate that over 1,080 people have been killed, with some 4,350 people injured, and more than 150,000 people displaced, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The supply of food, fuel, water and electricity across the country has been disrupted. Schools, health facilities and private homes have been damaged or destroyed. An estimated two million children are unable to attend school. The country's health system is at imminent risk of collapse due to shortages of medical supplies and fuel for generators.

Further, the United Nations and its partners have not been spared. In the capital, Sana'a, the offices of several UN agencies and partner organizations were damaged by explosions on 21 April, forcing at least one agency to suspend operations. Following temporary relocations, the UN and partners are now exploring ways of redeploying staff to Yemen to support the response.

"The country's airports and seaports constitute a lifeline given that Yemen relies on imports for 90 per cent of its food and most of its fuel. However, these lifelines have been hampered as most airports are not open to civilian traffic, and transports by sea are subject to the coalition's inspection regime related to the arms embargo mandated by the UN Security Council," Mr. van der Klaauw said.

He said it is imperative that all parties to the conflict protect civilians from the effects of the fighting in compliance with international humanitarian law and that humanitarian pauses are urgently needed to safely bring aid workers and supplies into the country and for the aid to reach millions of people in need.

"This requires the support of all parties to the conflict to facilitate the safe passage of aid and unimpeded access for humanitarians to affected areas," he emphasised.

Humanitarian operations by some 90 organizations are ongoing where possible, mainly through national staff and partners, but these efforts are far from enough given that imports of commercial supplies have also been hampered, increasing the vulnerability of ordinary Yeminis.

The Humanitarian Coordinator said that the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan, which will be revised in the coming weeks, will require additional support for the remainder of 2015 to ensure that the entirety of needs are met and that aid organizations can directly assist all those affected.

"We count on the continued support of all parties to the conflict and the international community to help save and protect lives across Yemen," he said.

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