Yemen humanitarian emergency worsens as medical supplies dwindle

Yemen humanitarian emergency worsens as medical supplies dwindle
The International Committee of the Red Cross has suspended its activity in Yemen's Aden after gunmen stormed its office, as the humanitarian situation in the war-ravaged country worsens.
3 min read
26 August, 2015
Aid agencies have requested $132 million to help with the dire humanitarian situation [Getty]

Life saving medicines, trauma kits and blood bank supplies are urgently needed in war-ravaged Yemen, where nearly half the country’s health facilities have shut down, leaving thousands of injured civilians with fewer and fewer places to seek emergency assistance, according to the UN health agency.

The statement comes as the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday it had suspended its operations in the city of Aden after gunmen stormed its office there.

"Gunmen stormed our sub-delegation in Aden on Monday and held our staff at gunpoint," spokeswoman Rima Kamal said. "We have as a result temporarily suspended our operations in Aden."

She said the ICRC had evacuated 14 of its employees from Aden to other provinces.

"They will continue to support our Yemen operation from other locations," Kamal added.

The current humanitarian situation in Yemen is dire. Four out of five Yemenis are in need of humanitarian assistance, around 1.5 million people are internally displaced and the country is on the brink of famine.

The UN World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative for Yemen, Ahmed Shadoul, said shortages of basic and lifesaving medicines and supplies are fast dwindling with limited access for replenishing.

“In Taiz, the ongoing crisis has led to the closure of many health facilities and access to them for the injured civilians and doctors is almost becoming impossible," Shadoul said.

Thousands of people have been injured in Taiz since the start of March 2015 with over 350 casualties recorded in the last one week alone, according to WHO.

The organisation also added that of the $132 million requested for Yemen in 2015, it has only received $25 million.

Last week Friday, leading international aid group, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), made a dramatic appeal to Yemen's warring factions to halt attacks on civilians, a day after heavy fighting in Taiz killed more than 65 people and wounded at least 23.

MSF said it was unable to reach the hospitals in the city.

"We call on the warring parties to stop attacking civilian targets, especially hospitals, ambulances and densely populated neighbourhoods and allow medical personnel and humanitarian organisations to provide assistance," the aid group, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, said in a statement.

Among those killed, at least 17 were children and 20 were women, according to Doctors Without Borders, which added that more than 65 people were killed in Taiz last Thursday.

The survivors, the group reported, were left "searching through the rubble with their bare hands" in the hope of finding victims buried underneath.

"It was a hellish night," said Taiz resident Omar Karim, who could not sleep from the sound of the shelling as he and his family cowered in their basement for shelter.

"Patients and MSF staff are unable to reach hospitals due to the heavy fighting and airstrikes," the aid group said in a statement, adding that 923 people have been wounded over the past three days, and that 133 of them died due to their severe injuries.

Only seven of Taiz's 21 hospitals are currently open but they are "totally overwhelmed" and have run out of essential medication, MSF said.