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Sanaa: situation to deteriorate rapidly if blockade not lifted

Emergency
Yemen

HI works in five health centres and hospitals in Sanaa, the capital of Yemen, where it provides rehabilitation care and distributes mobility aids (crutches, wheelchairs), among other activities. The impact on the population and humanitarian operations is likely worsen rapidly if the blockade imposed on 6 November is not lifted. François Olive-Keravec, Yemen programme director at Handicap International (HI), who is currently in Sanaa, describes the situation in the field.

CALP hospital, Sana’a, March 2017. Readaptation session for a tetraplegic patient injured during a direct fight in the north of Yemen. | © Camille Gillardeau / HI

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia imposed a total blockade of the country on 6 November after a missile was fired at Riyadh two days earlier. Sanaa – where HI conducts all of its operations - and its agglomeration have been hit by fifty or so air attacks in a week. The situation is calmer now but people are still extremely nervous.

I personally never travel further than 500 metres from my office or home. We organise a security briefing for my team every morning. We’re in constant touch with other NGOs and swap information on the fly.

Under international pressure, Saudi Arabia announced the partial lifting of the blockade for humanitarian products. We still have no confirmation as to whether plans to reopen the port of Hodeida and Sanaa airport to humanitarian aid on Thursday 23 November have been followed through. Both facilities have a limited capacity for foodstuffs and equipment.

Following the suspension of imports, fuel supplied from outside regular channels is obviously more expensive. Travel problems have reduced the number of people admitted to health centres and hospitals.

Sanaa is still relatively unaffected by the blockade. The impact on the rest of the country, however, has been immediate and serious. There was a run on service stations the day the blockade was announced, 6 November, in the capital. And there has been regular bombing until recently. There are thirty or so international organisations in Sanaa. Almost all have prepared for this type of risk and are continuing with their operations. HI has contingency stocks of petrol and a two-month supply of mobility aids, so we’re carrying on with our operations almost as usual. But if the blockade goes on any longer, the situation is going to get worse very quickly. It’s outrageous to block humanitarian aid to a country that has already suffered so much.

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