Nine million Yemenis need aid: Minister

Up to 25,000 Yemeni refugees are stuck in several neighboring countries

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Around nine million Yemenis are in pressing need for humanitarian aid, Yemen’s human rights minister said on Monday.

Ezzedine al-Asbahi, said Houthi militia were obstructing the work of relief missions on the ground and that their airstrikes targeted hospitals and paramedics.

Asbahi, who was speaking at a press conference for the Yemeni High Relief Committee at the Yemeni embassy in Riyadh, said that hospitals lacked the electricity or generator fuel to perform surgery, or even run ambulances.

Asbahi, said the Houthis and the deposed Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh's forces are turning hospitals, clinics and schools into weapons caches, which makes them target of Saudi-led airstrikes.

The Houthis have imposed a siege of Aden, cutting off fuel supplies, leaving large parts of the city in darkness. And because there is no fuel, hospital generators cannot work, al-Asbahi added.

A total of 365,000 houses have been destroyed across Yemen and the number of displaced nationwide has reached 250,000, he said.

"It's miserable," al-Asbahi said. "Yemen has gone back 100 years."

The government raised the alarm for Aden as well as the cities of Taez and Dhale, saying there is no electricity or water there and that these cities have run out of fuel, medical supplies and food.

"These cities are on verge of collapse," said Minister of Communications Nadia Saqqaf.

The three cities have also been the focus of a pressing offensive by the Houthis and Saleh's forces. While they have resisted the rebels' assault, pro-government forces, consisting mainly of poorly-armed and lightly-equipped militias, have failed to protect civilians caught in the cross-fire.

“We are working on delivering humanitarian aid in all areas,” said Saqqaf, who is also the head of the humanitarian group in Yemen.

Saqqaf said nearly a quarter million Yemenis, out of a population of 25 million, have been displaced. On average, 15 people are killed by sniper fire or random shelling daily in Aden, she said. Late in the day, security officials in Aden said the Houthis stormed the Republican Hospital there, firing heavily and forcing medical staff including Red Cross doctors to flee. Hospital officials said the Houthis detained some of the wounded receiving treatment there.

The minister added that a collective effort is needed to end the humanitarian crisis and called on Yemenis to protect relief missions from attacks.

The country’s minister of transport Badr Basalma also called expressed his concerns about the humanitarian situation in Yemen and revealed that 25,000 Yemeni refugees are stuck in several neighboring countries.

Basalama said that Yemen is “coordinating with the coalition to bring Yemenis back through Sanaa airport,” adding that flights will start on Tuesday.

The minister also revealed that Aden has been cut off of electricity for nine days now, adding that Houthi militia have targeted water tanks in the city and have stolen gasoline for petrol stations their military operations.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross said today that the humanitarian situation in Yemen has become catastrophic.

"It was difficult enough before, but now there are just no words for how bad it's gotten," said International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokeswoman Marie Claire Feghali. "It's a catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe."

Telecommunications within Yemen and with the outside world could be cut within days due to a shortage of fuel, state-run news agency Saba quoted the director of telecommunications as saying. Fuel shortages were also preventing traders from moving food to market, the United Nations' World Food Program said.

[With Reuters and AFP]

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