posted on Tue 11 Jul 2017 12:37 PM
Yemen Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow (12 July), the Council will receive a briefing via video teleconference from the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Briefings are also expected via video teleconference from the director-generals of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), José Graziano da Silva. OCHA head Stephen O’Brien will also address the Council.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed will be briefing from Amman. Members do not expect him to report any significant progress in reviving the political process or regarding his plan to address the issue of Hodeidah port. Recently the Special Envoy travelled to Paris, meeting with the French foreign minister, and to Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi and Yemeni officials. Members are likely to be interested in whether he has resumed his contacts with the Houthi rebels and the General People’s Congress (GPC), who would not meet with him during his visit in Sana’a in May. The Houthis subsequently announced on 5 June that they would no longer engage with the Special Envoy, accusing him of bias.

The Special Envoy is expected to provide an overview of developments in Yemen. Fighting continues, pitting the Houthis and the forces loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh against the Yemeni government and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition. However, the coalition has refrained from attacking Hodeidah, the port city under Houthi control through which most humanitarian aid and commercial goods are imported. Ould Cheikh Ahmed may refer to the tensions in southern Yemen where there is a growing independence movement. On 29 June, President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi dismissed the governors of Hadramout, Shabwa and Socotra who are part of the Southern Transitional Council, which was formed in May following Hadi’s dismissal of Aden Governor Adydarus al-Zubadi. On 7 July, a large pro-independence demonstration was organised in Aden. This situation is creating tensions between the Yemeni government and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which the government perceives as supporting southern leaders and groups. Members may be interested in Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s assessment of the situation in the south, and in discussing how his office could become involved in preventing a further deterioration.

Meanwhile Yemen’s humanitarian crisis, the largest in the world with 19 million people requiring aid, continues to worsen. O’Brien can be expected to provide an overview of the crisis, including access challenges for aid and critical commercial goods such as food, fuel and medicine.

The situation is being exacerbated by a cholera outbreak which began in late April. This will likely be the focus of Ghebreyesus’ briefing. Yesterday, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced that the number of suspected cholera cases had surpassed 300,000 and the outbreak has claimed more than 1,700 lives, as it “continues to spiral out of control”. Ghebreyesus may note that after more than two years of war, only 45 percent of health facilities in Yemen remain with limited functionality and 30 percent of Yemen’s required medicines are being imported, further hindering the ability to treat infections. Meanwhile, during a 6 July press conference in Sana’a, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said that the outbreak is forcing humanitarian agencies to divert resources away from combating Yemen’s food crisis. 17 million people are food insecure, of whom 6.8 million are at risk of famine. Graziano da Silva may elaborate on this situation and on some of the FAO’s initiatives to provide support to agriculture, which according to a 6 July FAO report on fighting famine is the main livelihood for two million households across Yemen.

During consultations, members may express regret that there has not been progress in the implementation of the Council’s 15 June presidential statement (S/PRST/2017/7), with the exception being that Hodeidah port remains open. Millions of civil servants remain unpaid, which further contributes to the humanitarian crisis. OCHA continues to try to get agreement among the parties to deploy additional UN Verification and Inspection Monitors to Hodeidah and to install new cranes to increase the port’s capacity, as well as to increase access to Sana’a airport. Despite the Council’s statement calling on the parties to distinguish at all times between civilian population and combatants, a 17 June airstrike, two days after its adoption, reportedly killed or injured at least 23 civilians in a market in Sa’ada governorate. The Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen remains underfunded at just 33.3 percent as of 9 July, with around $700 million pledged at the 25 April donors’ conference yet to be delivered. Some members could raise concerns about how the recent crisis involving Qatar and its Gulf neighbors may affect countries’ attention to the conflict in Yemen.