Comment by Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Maria Zakharova on the humanitarian situation in Yemen

The humanitarian situation in Yemen


We have taken note of a statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, timed to the second anniversary of the Yemeni conflict. He cites civilian casualty statistics specifying that these are only figures obtained by his agency. As far as he knows, 4,773 have been killed and 8,272 injured in these two years, while the actual casualties are much greater. The United Nations does not deny these figures, I stress again. More than that, 21 million Yemenis, or 82 per cent of the population, are in urgent need of humanitarian relief. A nationwide catastrophe has broken out.

Last month alone brought 106 civilian deaths, mainly in air raids and naval artillery shelling. An incident is mentioned in which 32 Somali refugees and a Yemeni died, ten Somalis were reported missing, and 29 Somalis, including six children, were injured, some of them badly. According to eyewitness accounts, their ship was attacked by the Coalition’s Apache helicopter. The UN High Commissioner mentions a number of other instances of helicopters shelling fishing vessels, and the Khokha marketplace tragedy, where 18 civilians died in an airstrike.

Instances are also reported of indiscriminate strikes by people’s committees associated with the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They are also reported to impede humanitarian deliveries to Taiz.

A similar statement was made by Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who said that even appalling casualties do not entirely reflect the scope of the Yemeni humanitarian disaster, with the economy in ruins and seven million people starving.

This is not an industrial accident or a natural calamity that has stricken Yemen but a human-caused disaster. I took notice of a statement by United States Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who said that the United States is “the moral conscience of the world”. If you are really the moral conscience, why do you turn a blind eye to what is happening to people in Yemen? Or is it a new hybrid kind of conscience, which does not send signals to the brain or other vital organs? It is impossible not to see the disaster. I realise that the US media are preoccupied with other problems. The words “Yemen”, “Mosul” and “Syria” do not occur in their front-page news. They are focusing on Russia. We will talk about it later. But can “moral conscience” be mute to such an extent? Surely, it cannot have atrophied completely. This means there is no such conscience at all.

Two years of violence, bloodshed, despair, famine and destruction are more than enough for all sides to see the necessity of an urgent search for a peaceful settlement of the conflict. All this bears out our assessments of the Yemeni situation and the correctness of repeated appeals to an urgent peaceful settlement.

The international community’s duty is to work towards an immediate cessation to all violence, whatever motivations might be found for it. We are firmly convinced that there is no military solution to the Yemeni conflict. The sides should return to the negotiating table with assistance from UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed and work for a lasting ceasefire and the political settlement of the conflict.