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Medical aid, food supplies reach Yemen

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-28 07:50

UNICEF says vaccines cargo can't be one-off due to 'immense need'

SANAA, Yemen - The UN child agency said it has flown 1.9 million doses of vaccines to war-torn Yemen, its first delivery of humanitarian aid after 20-day military blockade from Saudi-led coalition.

Regional UNICEF director Geert Cappelaere described Saturday's shipment as a "very small step" at a time of immense need and warned that it must not be a one-off.

The coalition had promised to reopen Yemen's main airport in the capital of Sanaa and the Red Sea port of Hodeida to humanitarian traffic by late last week.

Meanwhile, a ship carrying 5,500 tons of flour docked in Hodeidah on Sunday.

"It's the first commercial ship docked in the port after 20 days of blockade," Houthi official Khalid Jomaey said.

He said "another aid ship carrying wheat from the United Nations World Food Programme is sailing near the port and is set to dock within hours".

The delivery is the first commercial shipment to be allowed by the coalition into the rebel-controlled port.

On Wednesday, the Saudiled coalition fighting Shiite Houthi rebels said it would allow access of humanitarian supply planes to Sanaa and ships carrying aid to Hodeidah.

Jens Laerke, spokesman of the UN humanitarian aid coordination agency OCHA, said on Friday that what really matters is that "we can get the ports in Hodeidah and Saleef open both for humanitarian aid and for commercial imports".

The coalition has been facing escalating criticisms from senior UN officials and humanitarian agencies who expressed mounting concerns over already worsening humanitarian catastrophes in the wartorn Arab country which largely depends on humanitarian aid supplies and food imports.

The coalition, which intervened in the Yemeni conflict in March 2015 to back the Sunni government of the exiled president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, said it is planning to give clearance to aid ships only.

Around 10,000 Yemeni people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict.

In dire need

"We hope all will live up to their promises," Cappelaere said. "These supplies are urgently needed."

More than 11 million children in Yemen are in dire need of aid, and it is estimated that every 10 minutes a child in Yemen dies of a preventable disease, he said.

New alarms were raised by an outbreak of diphtheria, with suspected cases already reported in five governorates, said Cappelaere. Cholera and acute watery diarrhea spread rapidly in recent months, including among children, with close to 1 million suspected cases reported.

"The war in Yemen is sadly a war on children," he said. "Yemen is facing the worst humanitarian crisis I have ever seen in my life."

Cappelaere said the 1.9 million doses are meant to vaccinate 600,000 children across Yemen against diphtheria, meningitis, whopping cough, pneumonia and tuberculosis.

AP - Xinhua - Reuters



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