‘Hundreds will die within a week in Yemen siege’

Aid groups say there are 2.2 million malnourished children in Yemen. — Reuters

Aid groups say there are 2.2 million malnourished children in Yemen. — Reuters

Hundreds of sick and elderly Yemenis “will die within the next week” unless Saudi Arabia lifts its blockade and allows urgently needed medical supplies into the country.

Doctors in the capital told Al Jazeera pharmacies across Sanaa that were already struggling with a critical shortage of specialist drugs, would be unable to treat cancer, diabetes and renal failure patients by the start of next week.

“We’re running dangerously low on medical supplies and won’t have anywhere near the necessary vials of pain-relief medication, insulin, and other specialist medicines for our patients,” said Abdulrahman al-Ansi, a doctor at Sanaa’s al-Mutawkil hospital. Ali, a two-year-old boy with acute lymphocytic leukaemia died last month as a direct result of the absence of cancer medications, he said.

“Unless Saudi Arabia eases its restrictions and allows food and medical supplies, I could end up losing all of my cancer patients — even those suffering from diabetes — [a treatable disease] will die. Hundreds will perish in the next week alone.”

Saudi Arabia, which has been at war with Yemen since 2015, tightened its air, land and sea blockade of the country on Sunday, after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile towards the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The Houthis, a group of fighters that controls the capital and large expanses of the country, justified the missile attack, blaming Saudi-led air strikes — which have killed thousands of people — of ravaging large parts of north Yemen. The kingdom has defended the blockade, which bars aid groups like Doctors without Borders, Oxfam and UN agencies from delivering aid, claiming it is aimed at preventing weapons being smuggled into Yemen by its regional rival, Iran. Tehran has rejected allegations of arming the Houthis, calling them “malicious, irresponsible, destructive and provocative”.

The Saudis have taken a page from [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s playbook. They think this siege will break us and we’ll accept their plan for the country. I may not live to see the end of this war, but I pray the Saudis lose. Aid organisations in Yemen said they were “greatly alarmed” by Saudi Arabia’s decision, warning it could “bring millions of people closer to starvation and death”.

“The current stock of vaccines in the country will only last one month. If it is not replenished, outbreaks of communicable diseases, such as polio and measles, are to be expected with fatal consequences, particularly for children under five years of age and those already suffering from malnutrition,” said Oxfam, Save the Children, the Norwegian Refugee Council and 19 other aid groups in a joint statement. — AFP

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