Yemen still denied food and medicine as Saudis maintain humanitarian aid blockade

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 6:40pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 November, 2017, 10:31pm

A UN plane carrying desperately needed vaccines landed in the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa on Saturday after a three-week Saudi blockade on aid that had sparked warnings thousands could die.

Three other aircraft – two carrying UN aid workers and one carrying International Committee of the Red Cross staff – also landed at the airport, which was repaired earlier this week after a Saudi air strike knocked out its controls.

The UN humanitarian affairs office had said on Friday that it had been given clearance by the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the rebels since 2015 to resume flights into Sanaa.

But it said desperately needed shipments of food and medicines to the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida remained blocked.

The UN Children’s Fund said Saturday’s flight was carrying more than 15 tonnes, or 1.9 million doses, of vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and other preventable diseases.

The World Health Organisation confirmed earlier this week that diphtheria was spreading as children went unvaccinated and doctors in Hodeida reported three deaths.

More than 2,000 people have died of cholera in Yemen this year, adding to the 8,600 who have died in the conflict between the Saudi-backed government and the rebels since 2015.

The aid blockade, put in place after the rebels allegedly fired a missile towards Riyadh, has tightened the stranglehold on Hodeida, the conduit for UN supervised deliveries of food and medicine to rebel-held territory.

The United Nations has warned that unless the blockade is lifted, Yemen will face “the largest famine the world has seen for decades”.

Seven million Yemenis are completely dependent on humanitarian supplies for their survival, according to the UN.