First aid flight allowed into Yemen capital for weeks, following Saudi Arabia blockade

First aid flight allowed into Yemen capital for weeks, following Saudi Arabia blockade
The first air flight landed in Yemen's capital Sanaa on Saturday, following a crippling embargo on the country by neighbour Saudi Arabia.
2 min read
25 November, 2017
Sanaa saw its first aid flights in three weeks [Getty]
Yemen welcomed the first aid flight in weeks to Sanaa on Saturday, as Saudi Arabia appears to ease its crippling blockade on the war-torn country following international pressure.

A UN plane carrying desperately needed vaccines landed in the rebel-held capital after a three-week Saudi-led aid blockade on Yemen sparked fears from aid agencies and NGOs that thousands could die.

Three other aircraft - two carrying UN aid workers and one carrying Red Cross staff - also landed at the airport.

Yet the UN says Saudi Arabia is not doing enough to prevent famine.

Sanaa airport was repaired earlier this week after a Saudi-led air strike knocked out its controls, an AFP correspondent reported.

The UN humanitarian affairs office confirmed it was given clearance by the Saudi-led coalition on Friday to allow in desperately needed supplies.

Saudi Arabia has been leading an air campaign against rebels since 2015 and intensified its blockade on Yemen after Houthi fighters fired a ballistic missile at the kingdom's capital Riyadh.

The UN said food and meical aid was most in need in the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hodeida, which remains blocked.

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

The World Health Organisation confirmed 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 8,600 who have died in the conflict between the Saudi-backed government and the rebels since 2015. 

The UN 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 permission.

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

The UN has warned that Yemen will face "the largest famine the world has seen for decades" if the blockade is not lifted.

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