UN slams ‘coalition airstrike’ on rural hospital that leaves 11 dead

199

UNITED NATIONS, Aug 16 (APP): Re emphasizing his call on all warring parties in Yemen to immediately implement the cessation of hostilities, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki moon has condemned Monday’s “coalition airstrike” on a hospital in the rural town of Hajjah that killed 11 people.

According to media reports, more than 19 people were also wounded
when an airstrike hit a hospital supported by the Paris based Medecins
Sans Frontieres (MSF), or Doctors Without Borders, in the rebel held town.

A statement issued by Ban’s spokesperson, the Secretary General notes that the parties to the Yemeni conflict have damaged or destroyed over 70 health centres to date, including three other MSF supported facilities,  and he “is deeply disturbed” by the intensification of airstrikes and continuing ground fighting and shelling, especially in populated areas.

The UN chief also stressed that the shrinking humanitarian space and limited access to essential services for Yemenis, a situation exacerbated
by the return to full scale hostilities, is a matter of ever greater concern, the statement said.

The statement further notes that hospitals and medical personnel are explicitly protected under international humanitarian law and any attack directed against them, or against any civilian persons or infrastructure,
is a serious violation of international humanitarian law. All such
attacks should be investigated through prompt, effective, independent
and impartial.

The Secretary General also reiterated his call on the parties to
renew their engagement without delay and in good faith with his
Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, in pursuit of a negotiated solution, the statement added.

In Geneva, Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), told reporters that the UN agency also condemned the attack and repeated its call on all parties with their commitments and obligations under international humanitarian law to protect health workers and facilities.

Hajjah is an area which hosts a large number of internally displaced persons and had already been suffering from serious disruptions in
health service delivery and shortages of medical staff due to the closure
of health facilities and the departure of medical personnel, he said,
noting that the hospital, one of a few functioning ones there, was
receiving 100 150 outpatients daily, providing life saving services, especially for mothers and children.

There were 23 patients in surgery, 25 in maternity ward as well as
13 new born and 12 patients in paediatrics at time of the bombing, he
said, adding that since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015,
more than 13 health workers had lost their lives and 23 had been injured.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that OHCHR staff on the ground was investigating the attack against the MSF hospital, and
reiterated that attacks on medical facilities were clearly prohibited
under international humanitarian law.

Following nearly 16 months of conflict in Yemen, the cessation of hostilities was declared on 10 April. While peace talks between a Yemeni Government delegation and a delegation of the General People’s Congress and Ansar Allah have since continued, serious violations have occurred in Marib, al Jawf, Taiz and in the border areas with Saudi Arabia.

On 6 August, the UN special envoy announced a one month break for
the talks, during which “the focus will be on working with each side separately to crystalize precise technical details.”

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in support of exiled Yemeni government in 2015, but have failed to bring it back to power.
The war and airstrikes in Yemen have since killed over 6,400 people, mostly civilians.