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Health services 'nearing collapse' in Yemen, says MSF

Announcement comes as pro-government forces retake key airbase
Yemeni pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition approach the key Al-Anad military base (AFP)

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Tuesday that health services in Yemen were "nearing collapse" with pregnant women dying for lack of transport and hospitals under fire from snipers.

Shortages of food, medicine and health workers are acute, said Thierry Goffeau, MSF's coordinator in Yemen's second city of Aden. 

"The population is faced with food shortages, the health system is in a state of collapse. I have never seen such a level of violence," he told a press conference in Paris following a 10-week mission to Yemen. 

Nearly 4,000 people have died since a coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia launched air strikes against Houthi rebels who had seized large parts of Yemen and ousted its president, Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. 

Transport has been totally disrupted by the near-daily air raids, meaning that "women needing a Caesarian die because they cannot get to a hospital in time,"  said Laurent Sury, MSF's head of emergencies.

"It is very difficult to get access to the population and for the population to access hospitals as a result of the bombardments and the fighting," he said. 

Sury said 20,000 people had been treated for injuries- nearly half in the nine MSF health centres. 

The charity's emergency surgery hospital and trauma clinic in the port city of Aden alone "receive nearly 350 new patients per week," he said.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle, Doctors Without Borders project coordinator Christine Buesser said that in spite of the hardships, a sense of collectivism existed between Yemenis.

"The people I met have a lot of resilience," she said. "They are very courageous. That touched me. And they also have a sense of solidarity- supporting each other. I have seen a lot of families that have taken in displaced people who have nowhere to go. They would share their food with them, their water, and give them some temporary shelter. Just supporting each other during this difficult time."

Pro-government forces retook Aden from the rebels last month, bringing an end to airstrikes in the city, but Sury said there were still snipers, and hospitals had to set up steel plates to protect their windows. 

Many parts of the city have been destroyed and many are without electricity and water, he added, but residents are starting to return. 

In a significant move, pro-government forces retook Yemen's biggest airbase from the Iran-backed rebels while hundreds of Gulf Arab troops landed in Aden to bolster the loyalist fightback.

The forces took the al-Anad airbase following intense fighting, with some analysts deeming it a turning point in the conflict.

"The al-Anad air base is important for a number of reasons," wrote Michael Stephens, of the Royal United Services Institute, on the BBC. "If secured in the long run [it] will provide an important logistical staging post for rearmament and resupply for pro-government forces pushing north towards the cities of Taiz and Ibb, as well as supporting operations toward the south-western coastline."