Second ‘mercy flight’ leaves Houthi-held Yemen capital with 24 patients: WHO

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A second medical evacuation flight carrying 24 critically ill Yemenis took off from the Houthi-held capital Sanaa on Saturday, the World Health Organization said.

“The flight just took off from Sanaa headed to Amman,” a WHO spokesperson told AFP.

Earlier reports said that the evacuation of the critically ill Yemenis from Sanaa was delayed on Friday, according to WHO who cited technical reasons.

“It is unfortunate that the flight did not take off today as planned,” a WHO spokesperson told AFP. “We are making every effort and working very hard to ensure the flight does take off as soon as possible.”

The spokesperson said the evacuation would “most likely happen in the coming day or days.”

“We urge everyone engaged in this effort to allow this medical air bridge operation to happen,” the WHO spokesperson said.

No further details on the reasons for the delay were provided.

A first “mercy flight” evacuated seven children from Sanaa on Monday for medical treatment in the Jordanian capital Amman.

The United Nations is eager to build the necessary confidence between the warring parties to enable more such evacuations.

A WHO source confirmed earlier on Friday that a plane carrying 24 patients and their companions was scheduled to leave later in the day from Sanaa to Amman.

The Arab Coalition supporting the UN-recognized government of Yemen has kept Sanaa airport closed to commercial flights since 2016.

But in November, the coalition announced that it was prepared to allow medical evacuations from the airport as a confidence-building measure to support UN peace efforts.

“This is the first of what we hope will be a number of flights in the medical air bridge,” UN Resident Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande told AFP after Monday’s flight.

She said she hoped there would be more evacuations in the following days, to Egypt as well as Jordan.

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