GENEVA/ADEN (Reuters) - The International Committee of the Red Cross appealed on Saturday for an immediate 24-hour halt to hostilities in Yemen to deliver life-saving medical aid into the country where it said the humanitarian situation was dire.
The Saudi-led military coalition conducting air strikes in Yemen was still blocking three shipments of aid and medical staff, aid agency said earlier. Talks were being held with all parties, spokeswoman Sitara Jabeen said.
“All air, land and sea routes must be opened without delay for at least 24 hours to enable help to reach people cut off after more than a week of intense air strikes and fierce ground fighting nationwide,” the ICRC said in a statement.
The Saudi-led coalition, which is bombing Iran-allied Houthi fighters and army units fighting forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, has taken control of Yemeni air space and ports since it began its offensive ten days ago.
More than 48 tonnes of medicines and surgical kits – enough to treat up to 3,000 people – are ready to leave for Yemen by boat and plane, pending clearance, the statement said. An ICRC surgical team of four is on standby in Djibouti to go to Aden.
“Because there have been positive developments in our discussions, we are hopeful of getting all clearances needed by Sunday,” Jabeen told Reuters.
Hospitals and clinics are running low on medicines and equipment, according to the ICRC, which has 300 aid workers in Yemen, including foreigners. Many areas suffer fuel and water shortages, and food stocks are being depleted, it said.
“We urgently need an immediate halt to the fighting, to allow families in the worst affected areas, such as Aden, to venture out to get food and water, or to seek medical care,” said Robert Mardini, head of the ICRC’s operations in the Near and Middle East. “For the wounded, their chances of survival depend on action within hours, not days.”
The United Nations Security Council was due to hold a meeting called by Russia to discuss a humanitarian pause in the air strikes.
U.N. relief coordinator Valerie Amos said on Thursday 519 people have been killed in the fighting and nearly 1,700 wounded, without specifying whether those figures included combatants.
Residents of central Aden, the southern city where Houthi fighters and their allies have been battling forces loyal to Hadi, said on Saturday some areas had been without water or electricity for two days.
“How can we work? This is unacceptable. How long can people live without water or electricity?” said Mohammad Fara‘a, a resident of Aden’s central Crater district, which was briefly captured on Thursday by Houthi forces.
Another Crater resident, Hassan Abdallah, said people were resorting to a long-disused well at one of the city’s mosques to get water. In the adjacent Mualla neighborhood, Abdu Hassan said his family was using up the last water in their tank.
“When that runs out, God knows what we will do,” he said.
Writing by Stephanie Nebehay and Dominic Evans; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky