Office of the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen: Statement on communications equipment for Sana'a international airport
31 December 2021
Sana'a, 31 December 2021 – The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly, made the following statement today:
Sana'a international airport is critical for aid operations in the north of Yemen.
Although closed to regular civilian flights since 2016, the United Nations and other humanitarian actors rely on the airport to fly in aid workers and supplies that help deliver life-saving assistance to millions of people every month.
Closure of the airport to humanitarian flights severely undermines aid operations, and I remain deeply concerned about any further disruptions.
Following the airport closure by the authorities in Sana'a on 19 December and airstrikes the following night, a UN team visited the airport on 21 December and determined that it remains operational for emergency use.
Humanitarian flights are emergency in nature. I call on the authorities in Sana'a to refrain from suspending humanitarian flights in the future, even for technical reasons, without advance consultations and mutual agreement with the United Nations. The temporary reopening of the airport on 27 December was a positive development.
Humanitarian flights should also operate under the maximum possible safety and security conditions. The communications equipment at Sana'a airport has had technical issues. Over the past 18 months, UN humanitarian flight crews have reported at least 10 instances in which they were unable to contact the air control tower at Sana'a airport or had unclear communications – a potentially dangerous situation. The Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority (CAMA) in Sana'a deems the equipment obsolete.
CAMA purchased new equipment for the control tower in 2019, which the United Nations agreed to fly into Sana'a airport. But the Saudi-led Coalition's Evacuation and Humanitarian Operations Committee (EHOC) has not authorized the transfer, despite several requests from the United Nations, citing the need for Government of Yemen approval.
To ensure maximum safety and reliability for humanitarian flights, I am urgently calling on the Government of Yemen to authorize the import of the equipment, the contents of which were verified by EHOC in December 2021. The equipment is needed to ensure the safe use of Sana'a airport for humanitarian flights and, by extension, the continuation of the aid operation in Yemen