DUBAI (Reuters) - A senior United Nations official has accused Yemen’s dominant Houthi group of obstructing the delivery of humanitarian supplies to civilians in Taiz and warned that up to 200,000 people are living under “virtual siege” in the city.
Supporters of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by Arab coalition forces, have been trying to capture the city, located some 205 km (123 miles) south of the capital Sanaa, from Houthi fighters for months in clashes that have killed hundreds and displaced many more.
The U.N. Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, said months of fighting has left some 200,000 civilians in a virtual state of siege in need of drinking water, medical treatments and other life-saving assistance and protection.
“Al-Houthi and popular committees are blocking supply routes and continue to obstruct the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid and supplies into Taiz City,” O’Brien said in a statement issued in New York on Tuesday.
“Despite repeated attempts by UN agencies and our humanitarian partners to negotiate access and reach people, our trucks have remained stuck at checkpoints and only very limited assistance has been allowed in,” he added.
At least 5,700 people have been killed in the conflict, which began after the Iran-allied Houthis advanced on the southern port city of Aden in March and forced Hadi into exile, drawing in an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition has made some gains against the Houthis, but the advance had been very slow.
The Yemeni government-run sabanew.net news agency said Hadi, who is now in the southern port city of Aden, toured the frontline on Tuesday and visited the al-Anad base, where Yemeni government forces and Arab allies are stationed.
O’Brien said hospitals which are still functioning in Taiz, one of the biggest cities in Yemen, were overwhelmed with wounded patients and faced severe shortages of doctors and nurses, essential medicines and fuel. He cited reports that aid supplies destined for the city had been diverted away from the people it was intended for.
“This is unacceptable. I call on all parties to work with the United Nations and other neutral and impartial organizations to urgently facilitate the delivery of life-saving assistance and protection to civilians and the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian workers to Taiz City, without further delay,” he said.
Reporting by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Richard Balmforth