News ID: 204979
Published: 0330 GMT November 25, 2017

First aid flight in weeks lands in Yemen capital

First aid flight in weeks lands in Yemen capital

A UN plane carrying desperately needed vaccines landed in the Yemeni capital Sana’a on Saturday after a three-week Saudi-led aid blockade 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-led airstrike knocked out its controls, AFP reported.

The UN humanitarian affairs office had said on Friday that it had been given clearance by the Saudi-led coalition that has been conducting airstrikes on Yemen since 2015 to resume flights into Sana’a.

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

An official from Yemen’s civil aviation authority confirmed that the flights had landed.

But he warned that Saturday's aid delivery was not enough and demanded access to Sana’a airport for all flights in order to "save the lives of the sick".

The UN children's fund UNICEF said the flight was carrying more than 15 tons, or 1.9 million doses, of vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and other preventable diseases.

The World Health Organization said 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 more than the13,000 who have died since 2015.

The aid blockade, put in place after the Houthi fighters fired a missile which was intercepted over Riyadh airport, has tightened the stranglehold on Hodeida, the conduit for UN supervised deliveries of food and medicine to rebel-held territory.

The UN humanitarian office said that a ship loaded with wheat and another with equipment to treat Yemen's cholera epidemic are ready to head to Hodeida as soon as the Saudi-led coalition gives the go-ahead.

The coalition had said it would lift its blockade of the port from Thursday but it remains in place.

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

Yemen is highly dependent on imported wheat for its basic needs and aid groups have warned that humanitarian deliveries cover only a small portion of the need.

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


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