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Yemen aid agencies say thousands of lives at risk as vital lifeline remains blocked

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Yemen
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Inter-agency statement on the fifth year of the Sana’a airport closure

For the past five years, Sana’a International airport has remained closed to commercial flights due to restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led Coalition on Yemen’s airspace and disagreement over the terms of its reopening between Ansar Allah and the Internationally Recognised Government and Saudi Arabia has led to its continued closure, impeding thousands of civilians’ access to lifesaving assistance, nine aid agencies warned today.

Since 2016, aid agencies have been raising the alarm over the deadly impact of the closure. At least 32,000 people may have died prematurely as a result according to the Ministry of Health and Population in Sana’a (2019). Not only does its continued closure prevent thousands of patients with critical conditions from seeking medical treatment abroad, but it also prevents essential medical supplies and equipment from entering the country.

For 70 per cent of Yemenis living in northern areas, the only alternative is to take lengthy journeys across active conflict lines to reach the nearest airport, incurring substantial costs that many cannot afford.

Aid agencies have repeatedly called for the immediate reopening of Sana’a airport to alleviate the suffering of civilians and ensure the free flow of humanitarian and commercial goods throughout Yemen. In February last year, the airport was briefly opened to allow a limited number of patients in need of urgent medical care to leave the country. The hope that this could support confidence building between warring parties and eventually lead to the full reopening of Sana’a airport was, unfortunately, short-lived. In addition to compromising the lives of patients in need of urgent treatment, the continued closure of the airport, coupled with restrictions on Hodeida port exacerbates the suffering of people across Yemen.

The closure of the airport continues to prevent Yemenis from travelling, infringing on their right to freedom of movement. It has put the futures of many students on hold, as they can no longer pursue their studies abroad. The continued closure of the airport is also causing significant economic losses.

After nearly seven years of conflict, Yemen remains the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. 20 million people - over 66 per cent of the country’s 30.5 million population - are in need of humanitarian assistance, 13 million of which are at risk of starvation.

Aid agencies are therefore calling on Saudi Arabia, Ansar Allah and the Internationally Recognised Government to reopen Sana’a airport to alleviate the humanitarian situation.

Signed by:
Handicap International - Humanity & Inclusion
International Medical Corps
INTERSOS
Islamic Relief Worldwide
ZOA
Oxfam
Norwegian Refugees Council
Search for Common Ground
Save the Children