Statement by NRC’s Yemen Country Director Mohammed Abdi about the flight out of Sana’a airport for medical cases
“Today’s move comes too late for thousands of Yemenis who died waiting to leave the country for urgent life-saving care. They were handed a death sentence when the Saudi-led coalition blockaded northern Yemen by closing down the airport in Sana’a over three years ago. We hope that these medical flights will save the lives of other Yemenis. Many more are still waiting to get the healthcare they need. There is no justification for punishing very sick civilians by blocking them from accessing medical treatment. We hope that the recent increase in military escalations in northern Yemen does not put these flights under threat, and this small but significant step helps to build confidence between conflict parties. They need to end their political wrangling and fully reopen Sana’a airport for commercial flights.
“The closure of Sana’a airport is one example of the way the use of blockade is causing intolerable suffering for civilians. This includes restrictions on humanitarian goods, commercial imports of food, fuel and medicines. 80 per cent of the population now needs humanitarian aid to survive. The economy keeps deteriorating and people don’t have salaries. Yemen needs urgent action to increase the flow of food, fuel and medicines from Hodeidah port across the country, and salaries need to be paid otherwise Yemenis could face the risk of famine once again.”
Notes to editors:
· At least 32,000 Yemenis are estimated to have died waiting to get specialised medical treatment abroad according to the Ministry of Health in Sana’a.
· The medical flights will transport 30 patients to Cairo and Amman with chronic diseases who cannot be treated inside Yemen.
· It has taken two years to negotiate these flights. Today’s flight will carry 7 patients. It is expected to be followed by other flights to transport the remaining patients for treatment. It is hoped these flights will enable the opening of regular medical ‘bridge’ flights for sick patients.