Yemen faces total collapse, warns UN rights chief

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Damage caused by fighting in Abyan Governorate, southern Yemen. Photo: OCHA/Eman (file)

The situation in Yemen is “fast-deteriorating” and those involved in conflict must do more to protect civilians as the country approaches “total collapse”, the UN’s human rights chief said Tuesday.

Amid attacks on hospitals and an airstrike at a refugee camp, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called on “on all sides” to protect non-combatants and head for the negotiating table.

The development follows a Houthi rebel insurgency that has forced President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi from power in January and airstrikes led by a Saudi-led coalition force to restore the ousted leader.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Spokesperson for the UN human rights office Cecile Pouilly said that High Commissioner Zeid had been “shocked” by the deadly air strike at a refugee camp in northern Yemen.

In a statement, High Commissioner Zeid described the country as being on the “verge of total collapse”, before saying that the killing of so many innocent civilians is “simply unacceptable”.

Reports have varied on the number of victims from Monday’s attack Al-Mazraq camp, which Pouilly indicated was carried out by a Saudi-led coalition force.

In the last week alone UN spokesperson Pouilly said that “at least” 93 civilians had been killed in Yemen, while there had been airstrikes in Sa’da, Sanaa, and Hudayda.

Heavy fighting had also been reported in Aden in the south of the country, Pouilly said.

“Private homes, hospitals, education facilities, infrastructure in several locations have been destroyed…We again urge all sides to protect civilians from harm and to respect principles of proportionality distinction and precaution.”

There have also been reported attacks on three hospitals by an armoured division linked to Houthi rebels, causing an unknown number of casualties, according to the UN human rights office.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

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