IOM Urges Restraint, Calls for Protection of Migrants in Hodeidah Operation

IOM, the UN Migration Agency says the military offensive on Yemen’s busy port city of Hodeidah, which began on Wednesday (13/08), is putting the lives of 600,000 people at risk, urged restraint and calls for respect of International Humanitarian Law.

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire engulfing warehouse of the World Food Programme in Hodeida, Yemen

Firefighters try to extinguish a fire engulfing warehouse of the World Food Programme at Hodeidah port in Yemen on March 31, 2018. Image: Reuters/Abduljabbar Zeyad

IOM, the UN Migration Agency, warns of the drastic impacts that the military operation is having on migrants and humanitarian access to all affected communities. With its UN and other partners, IOM urges restraint and calls for respect of International Humanitarian Law, especially the protection of civilians, including migrants.

“Three years of ceaseless conflict have devastated Yemen and now this military operation is restricting humanitarian operations, causing further loss of life, internal displacement and suffering for the Yemeni people,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies. “We are concerned about the migrants caught up in the deadly fighting either living in or attempting to transit through the country,” he added.  

To evacuate the stranded or displaced families that want to leave areas of active conflict, IOM is coordinating with transportation service providers to potentially move them to safety.

In collaboration with National Authority for the Management and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Recovery (NAMCHA) and civil society, IOM has identified 12,766 internally displaced households, over 89,000 individuals, in Hodeidah as of 13 June 2018, with Al-Khawkhah (3,732 households), Al-Garrahi (2,990 households) and Al-Hali (1,107 households) districts hosting the largest amounts of displaced people in the Governorate. IOM has positioned 1,000 emergency shelter materials and other essential aid items in Bait-Al-Faqih district, where 700 households had been displaced to by 13 June. The number of people displaced to this district is also expected to increase in the coming days. Displacement locations without sufficient drinking water are being identified and IOM will begin water trucking to these areas shortly. Additional water sanitation and hygiene gaps are being assessed.     

Despite the fighting, IOM provides healthcare personnel to healthcare facilities in Hodeidah: a physician, two nurses and a midwife, as well as medical supplies and ambulances. The team rotates between three different facilities. IOM also plans to deploy two mobile medical teams, each roving in an ambulance and staffed with one doctor and three nurses, to Hodeidah, catering to the emergency healthcare needs of affected populations. Additional medical support is being planned in consultation with the Health Cluster.

Ahead of the military operation, IOM stockpiled core relief items, including food baskets, fuel and water to respond to expected needs on the ground. Of the 500 food baskets already procured, some 200 baskets have been distributed to 200 families in collaboration with the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and NAMCHA. IOM is urgently procuring an additional 1,500 baskets. Each food basket is expected to support a family for two weeks.

IOM procures the majority of its aid items locally, but does use the city’s port to help migrants, who become stranded in the country, return home through its Voluntary Humanitarian Return programme. So far in 2018, IOM assisted the voluntary return of over 350 migrants through Hodeidah Port. Due to the escalating fighting, the Organization was forced to postpone until further notice a return movement of over 200 Ethiopian migrants planned for earlier today (14/06). IOM’s Migrant Response Point in Hodeidah, which provides comprehensive support to vulnerable migrants, remains operational with an extremely reduced staff.

“Many migrants are stranded in or near the frontlines. Our Migrant Response Point in Hodeidah is currently running with skeletal staff, impacting how much we can help conflict affected migrants. And with our voluntary humanitarian return operations on hold for moment, the situations for migrants in Hodeidah is bleak,” said Abdiker.  

Nearly 60 IOM national staff are present in Hodeidah, with four performing critical programme functions and the rest currently on standby to join active duty, working from home for their own protection. In the coming days, IOM hopes to deploy an international presence to Hodeidah to support national staff in responding to the humanitarian needs of displaced and conflict-affected Yemenis and migrants.

“The safety of our staff based in Hodeidah is a massive concern and we are putting whatever measures we can in place to protect them but they are in the middle of a warzone. Our national colleagues come from the communities affected by the ongoing offensive and put their lives on the line every day to save those of others’,” said Abdiker.

“The humanitarian communities’ top priority is to save lives and provide assistance and protection to those affected by the conflict. This is extremely hindered when security is such a concern in an area that humanitarians cannot access to work,” Abdiker concluded.

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