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Aid agency warns against 'misconception' that Saudi blockade of Yemen is lifted

Save the Children warned that a continuing blockade of fuel products meant that Yemen still faced serious shortages
A Yemeni patient receives kidney dialysis treatment on January 22, 2018 at a clinic in the country's Hajjah province (AFP)

Aid groups have warned that moves by Saudi Arabia to ease a blockade on Yemen are not enough to end the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Save the Children said that announcements by Saudi Arabia of $1.5bn in aid to the war-stricken country could give the "misconception" that the kingdom had lifted the blockade.

The charity warned that the continued denial of access for fuel supplies at the port of Hodeida meant that supplies of other goods were still dwindling and Yemenis would find it difficult to transport victims of violence to medical facilities.

“Anything that improves humanitarian access into Yemen and provides more money for the humanitarian response plan is welcome, providing the new funding is not politicised," said Caroline Anning, a humanitarian advisor at Save the Children.

“But it’s a misconception - in the publicity around this new plan they say the blockade around Hodeida port has been fully lifted but actually what we’re seeing is that fuel is still being blocked coming into that port which is having a really horrendous knock-on effect around the country.”

She also told Middle East Eye that her organisation was concerned about the proposed creation of "safe-passage corridors" for aid in the south of the country.

'While the economy is collapsing and public sector salaries aren't being paid, the humanitarian crisis is going to continue'

- Caroline Anning, Save the Children

"We're not opposed to them in principle, but if what it means is that they want to try and push the delivery of key important commercial supplies through other ports like Aden, Jazan and Saudi Arabia and cut off the Hodeida port, again that could be really problematic and again it means one of the warring parties in the conflict is controlling access routes for goods coming in," she said.

"Improved humanitarian access is really important and that's been a massive challenge - but in reality that's not going to solve the humanitarian conflict in Yemen. We've seen increased violence, air strikes across the country in the last few months, civilians being killed every day, vital infrastructure like health clinics being hit all the time.

"While that's happening and while the economy is collapsing and public sector salaries aren't being paid, the humanitarian crisis is going to continue." 

Mounting criticism

The Saudi-led coalition, which has been bombing Houthi rebels since 2015, said on Monday it would "increase the capacities of Yemeni ports to receive humanitarian" imports, as it faces mounting criticism for imposing a crippling blockade on the country.

The latest aid package, which follows last week's $2bn Saudi cash injection to Yemen's central bank, comes amid an ever-broadening crisis in the country, where the conflict, cholera and looming famine have killed thousands and put millions of lives at risk.

"The coalition will coordinate... $1.5 billion in new humanitarian aid funding for distribution across UN agencies and international relief organisations," the coalition announced in a statement.

However, the UN humanitarian response plan for Yemen, released last week, said that $2.3bn was required for the country, and warned that there was a $689.2m funding gap still outstanding. It also warned that almost 18 million people were food insecure in the country.

"Some 75 percent of the population – 22.2 million people – are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million people in acute need who urgently require immediate assistance to survive – an increase by one million since June 2017," read the report summary.

At least 9,200 people have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition entered the war.

Another nearly 2,200 Yemenis have died of cholera amid deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions, the World Health Organisation says.  

Over the past year, the United Nations' efforts to address what it has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis have been hampered by a crippling blockade of rebel-held ports by the Saudi-led coalition.

- Additional reporting by AFP

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