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Saudi Arabia and allies delaying urgently needed medical aid to Yemen

Babies like Amira in Hodeida, in the north west of Yemen, are suffering from malnutrition and disease. They depend on aid reaching them from Hodeida port. Credit: Save the Children.

Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies are delaying Save the Children’s shipments of aid for Yemen by months, despite a looming famine that threatens to grip much of the country and a healthcare system on the brink of collapse.

In just two months, the Saudi-led coalition has prevented three shipments of medical aid from arriving at the port of Hodeida.

The cargo, intended to reach 300,000 people, included essential supplies such as antibiotics, surgical equipment, medicine and equipment to support malnourished children.

With famine looming and a healthcare system approaching collapse, these shipments mean survival for hundreds of thousands of families in Yemen.

Forced to put help on hold

Saida, who is being treated in the Save the Children-supported Al-Sabeen hospital in Sana'a, is 18 years old.
Saida, who is being treated in the Save the Children-supported Al-Sabeen hospital in Sana’a, is 18 years old. Credit: Save the Children.

Late last year, a two-tonne shipment of medical supplies – for 40,000 people, including 15,000 children – was due to land in the country’s main port of Hodeida on 2 December but was held off the coast and unable to dock.

It eventually arrived at the smaller port of Aden, from where supplies often have to cross active war zones, putting them and accompanying humanitarian staff at risk.

Humanitarian response cut short

Al-Sabeen Hospital in Sana'a, the capital city of Yemen, is supported by Save the Children. Despite support, the hospital is under-resourced and staff have had to to turn away sick babies and children.
Al-Sabeen Hospital in Sana’a, in the capital city of Yemen, is supported by Save the Children. The hospital is under-resourced and staff  often have to to turn away sick babies and children. Credit: Save the Children, Mohammed Awadh/Save the Children

The delays have prevented 51 healthcare facilities in the region that Save the Children supports from operating fully. It also means our health teams on the ground are unable to bring assistance to locations lacking in health services.

Grant Pritchard, our Yemen country director, said:

These delays are killing children. Our teams are dealing with outbreaks of cholera, and children suffering from diarrhoea, measles, malaria and malnutrition. With the right medicines these are all completely treatable – but the Saudi-led coalition is stopping them getting in. They are turning aid and commercial supplies into weapons of war.

He added:

“The British public has generously donated millions of pounds to a DEC appeal for Yemen, quite understandably expecting aid would reach people in need as quickly as possible. To see the Saudi-led coalition blocking shipments of humanitarian supplies is simply unforgivable. The UK Government must do more to make sure aid for Yemen gets where it needs to go.”

Prevented from getting aid where it’s needed

In August 2015, five cranes at Hodeida port were destroyed by an airstrike, preventing dozens of ships from unloading cargo quickly and forcing them to wait offshore to avoid escalating conflict.

Earlier this year, the coalition turned away four new cranes, supplied by the World Food Programme, which would have vastly improved the port’s ability to unload essential supplies.

Save the Children is supporting a number of fixed facilities in Hodeida. At Hodeida health centre, we assess children's health and weight, including taking MUAC measurements.
Save the Children is supporting a number of medical facilities in Hodeida. Pictured here is Hodeida health centre, where we assess children’s health and weight, including taking MUAC measurements. Credit: Save the Children

Deteriorating conditions

In Yemen, two million children under the age of 5 are acutely malnourished and half a million are at the most extreme level and in critical danger.

More than half of the health facilities assessed in 16 of the 22 assessed governorates are closed or partially functioning due to the conflict, leaving over 14.8 million people in need of basic healthcare – including 8.1 million children.

Yemen’s fragile healthcare system will not be able to cope with the devastation famine brings without help.

With conditions set to get worse, ensuring the successful delivery of aid to malnourished children must be top of the UK Government’s agenda.

Help us save children’s lives in Yemen: Donate now

The moment a 13-year-old boy was hit by an airstrike

Yemen hospitals running out of medicine

Yemen hospitals nearing collapse

Individuals in this blog have been given different names to protect their identities.

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