Yemen: Health, environment and economy are still under threat from the stricken oil tanker |


In her first briefing since last July, Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program (United Nations Environment Program), the ambassadors stated that the agreement reached in November with Houthi forces, officially known as Ansar Allah, regarding the scope of work needed to secure the ship, had generated hope for a quick solution.

However, due to “political and logistical hurdles,” she said the planned assessment mission had not yet spread.

“As a result, we still do not know the exact condition of the vessel, nor what is the best solution for handling 1.1 million barrels of oil in an old tanker located in an environmentally sensitive area of ​​the Red Sea,” the lady said. Andersen.

devastating repercussions

The head of the United Nations Environment Program painted a grim picture of the dire consequences of the oil spill, from health to the economy, affecting up to 670,000 livelihoods.

It said the oil spill could force the vital port of Hodeidah to close, limiting food and fuel imports for two to three weeks and blocking 50 percent of fishing grounds, “at an estimated economic cost of approximately $350 million over five years.”

The damage to the environment will be extensive: “The Red Sea is one of the most important repositories of planetary biodiversity,” she added, hosting marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds and many other globally important species, adding that coastal marine environments account for 86 percent of mangrove forests. in the country.

She said any oil spill would affect neighboring countries on the Red Sea, as well as one of the world’s busiest trade routes.

Furthermore, a fire or explosion could cause approximately 4.8 million Yemenis and 350,000 Saudis to be exposed to harmful pollution levels within 24-36 hours.

The head of the United Nations Environment Program explained that “about a million internally displaced people living in Yemen could be covered in this smoke plume”, leading to potentially severe health impacts on the vulnerable population.

work in parallel

Meanwhile, the United Nations system continues to support contingency planning, preparedness and response, in the event of an oil spill.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations noted that “some progress” has been made on this path, particularly in the development of coordination mechanisms.

She specifically mentioned that the United Nations Environment Program and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are supporting the Regional Conservation Organization for the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden (PERSGA) in developing a regional contingency plan in the event of a major spill.

The Yemeni government has established a National Emergency Committee on a Safer FSO which reviews its national contingency plan with the support of PERSGA, the United Nations Environment Program and the International Maritime Organization.

still danger يزال

Despite pledges by UN agencies and partners, Ms Andersen warned that “the risk remains and the situation will deteriorate as the delay escalates”.

“Even if response activities start immediately after an oil spill occurs, it will take years for ecosystems and economies to recover,” she testified.

In conclusion, the Secretary-General urged international partners to “intensify efforts to address the situation”.

An impartial evaluation is required

Rina Ghailani, Director of Operations and Advocacy at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) warned of a “good chance” of flammable gases accumulating inside the tanker.

But because the UN has never been allowed to visit the site, it doesn’t know exactly what conditions on board the ship were, making it impossible to determine in an assessment more work than could be done safely.

“This is why the main objective of the UN mission has always been to assess the conditions of the ship,” Ms. Ghailani stated, adding that experts should check the evidence impartially and evaluate options to solve the problem “finally.”

She stressed that the United Nations had no preference for how the situation was ultimately resolved, only as long as it was “do it safely.”

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