REPUBLIC OF YEMEN: Huthi forces block vital hospital supplies fuelling humanitarian crisis in Ta’iz

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17 Feb 2016
[International Secretariat]
Topic: Regional conflict

The Huthi armed group and forces allied to it are endangering the lives of thousands of civilians in the southern city of Ta’iz by blocking the entry of crucial medical supplies and food over the past three months, in blatant violation of international humanitarian law, said Amnesty International.

Testimony gathered by the organization from 22 residents and medical staff living in Yemen’s third largest city paints an alarming picture of civilian suffering and hardship. Most of the city’s hospitals have shut down and the few that remain open are on the verge of collapse due to a lack of supplies. One resident’s new-born baby died hours after he was born because of severe oxygen shortages at the city’s hospitals.

“Residents are effectively trapped within an enclave of Ta’iz and depriving them of basic necessities amounts to collective punishment of the civilian population.”

All routes into and out of Ta’iz are controlled by the Huthi armed group and its allies. Restrictions on entering and leaving the city have tightened significantly since the conflict began. Only al-Duhi crossing to the west of the city has remained open on an intermittent basis, leaving residents largely trapped inside.

Residents told Amnesty International that members of the Huthi armed group and its allies have stopped civilians crossing checkpoints from bringing in fruit, vegetables, meat, clothes as well as gas cylinders for cooking and oxygen cylinders destined for hospitals, in some cases confiscating the goods. International humanitarian law absolutely prohibits the blocking of medical supplies. All parties to the conflict must allow unimpeded passage of impartial humanitarian relief for civilians.

Amnesty International spoke to five doctors in Ta’iz who said they are desperately in need of more anaesthetics, oxygen and surgical instruments to treat patients injured during ongoing fighting between Huthi and anti-Huthi armed groups inside the city.

Only four local hospitals within the enclave remain functional. Even these open and close sporadically depending on whether they manage to get hold of medical supplies.

Doctors told Amnesty International that at least 18 people, including five children, have died as a result of lack of oxygen in recent months.

“All parties to the conflict must ensure the delivery of medical aid to civilians in the city of Ta’iz. Deliberately obstructing such deliveries has had heart-breaking consequences for civilians requiring urgent medical care,” said James Lynch.

Around 80% of shops in the city are closed and the prices of smuggled goods have soared, with basic supplies now costing around four or five times the usual local rate. Many residents are struggling to afford food to feed themselves and their families.

Even bread has doubled in price. Abdullah Ali, a father to six young children and a resident of the poor al-Sameel neighbourhood, told Amnesty International: “I am unemployed and there are no work opportunities so every meal is a struggle…We need at least one bag of roti [bread] to feed the household for one meal”.

In late January the World Food Programme, Médecins Sans Frontières and Saudi Arabia-led coalition were allowed to make small aid deliveries into the enclave of Ta’iz but local residents told Amnesty International the supplies were woefully insufficient.

“All parties to the conflict have an obligation to ensure the civilian population in areas under their control has access to humanitarian aid. By blocking aid the Huthi armed group are deeply aggravating a cycle of civilian suffering in Ta’iz and flagrantly flouting international law,” said James Lynch.

9 February 2016

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