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Save the Children: The reopening of Sanaa airport for medical flights ‘a lifeline’ for thousands of children

Save the Children | Sanaa, Yemen | 3 February 2020

"Almost every day our teams see children who are maimed in this conflict, or who are suffering from diseases that need treatment outside the country. For more than three years, they had a death sentence hanging over their heads."

 

The reopening today, for the first time in three years, of Sanaa airport for medical flights restores a vital lifeline for thousands of children who are stuck in Yemen without access to lifesaving treatment, Save the Children said, as a plane with seven patients on board took off for Amman, Jordan.

Save the Children Yemen Country Director Xavier Joubert said:

“Almost every day our teams see children who are maimed in this conflict, or who are suffering from diseases that need treatment outside the country. For more than three years, they had a death sentence hanging over their heads, as they were unable to get specialist medical support because of the closure of the airport.

"Thousands of children are suffering from diseases such as heart complications and kidney failure. They need to be transported to big hospitals, but there is lack of fuel. They need quality healthcare, but there is a lack of medical supplies and personnel, and hospitals suffer from power outages.”

Up until now, many parents had no choice but to make the long, expensive and dangerous drive to Aden airport to take their children out of the country for treatment. While the reopening of Sanaa airport is a positive development, the main challenge remains that most Yemenis can’t afford to travel to Sanaa, let alone pay for a plane ticket and medical treatment abroad. That’s why Save the Children is calling all stakeholders to open Sanaa airport to commercial flights as well, so that medicines, medical equipment and other goods can come into the north of the country by air.

Asma*, the mother of Omar*, 8, who has a heart complication said:

“My little boy needs immediate medical surgery to correct the heart muscles. This brutal crisis in my country doesn’t have mercy on my child and other children like him who are facing death and cannot enjoy their childhood. The closure of the has had an impact on my son’s health because no medication or equipment can get in.

"I feel like my hands are chained and I cannot do anything to save my son… I cannot take him abroad for surgery nor can he handle the road trip to Aden. My son has a right like other children to go to school and enjoy his childhood. Mothers like me cry in pain for their children.”

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, almost entering its 6th year, has made the country a deadly place for children, with over seven million requiring some form of humanitarian assistance. The reopening of the airport is a positive step towards saving lives in Yemen however only a complete ceasefire across the country, alongside an inclusive political solution, can guarantee the protection of children’s lives.

As the UK’s new Government takes shape, helping to bring peace to Yemen must be a key priority. The lives of children in Yemen and Global Britain’s role on the world stage depend on it.

ENDS

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons

Notes to Editors

  • Save the Children has spokespeople available. Please contact d.stewart@savethechildren.org.uk  / +44 (0) 0207 012 6841 / +44 (0)7831 650409
  • Omar* suffers from Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) which is a cardiac anomaly that refers to a combination of four related heart defects that commonly occur together. Surgery is the only effective treatment.

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