On Saturday, January 16, after five months of intense negotiations with officials, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was able to get a delivery of two trucks full of essential medical supplies into the besieged area of the city of Taiz, in southern Yemen.
Checkpoints and intense fighting have hampered humanitarian aid from reaching the besieged enclave since August 2015, which was the last time that hospitals in the area received medical supplies in any quantity. Severe shortages meant that wound care and surgery had to be stopped on a number of occasions.
"We're very pleased that we managed to deliver the medical supplies to the hospitals in this besieged area, which are seeing large number of patients with war wounds," says Karline Kleijer, MSF emergency manager for Yemen "These essential medical supplies—including chest tubes, anesthetic drugs, fluid, sutures, and antibiotics—will support lifesaving surgeries in the hospitals."
Yemenis living in this densely populated besieged area say that food, drinking water, and fuel are increasingly hard to obtain, and prices of essentials have risen dramatically.
"A large part of the population of Taiz is displaced within the city," says Kleijer. "They are battling for their survival on a daily basis, and fighting to get hold of sufficient food and water, due to the steep cost of basic necessities and the prevailing insecurity."
An MSF team has been working in Taiz since May 2015, providing medical assistance to victims of the ongoing fighting, regardless of their political affiliations. "In Taiz alone we have treated more than 5,307 war-wounded people," says Kleijer.
"However, for the last few months, access to this specific enclave of the city with medical supplies has been impossible."
Airstrikes hit Taiz city on a daily basis, and residents live in fear of snipers, stray bullets, and mortar shelling, which are being used indiscriminately by both warring groups. The wounded struggle to reach clinics and hospitals, due to the fighting and the difficulties of crossing frontlines and the lack of transport due to fuel shortages. Taiz formerly had 20 hospitals for its population of 600,000; now only six are functioning, and these only partially. Basic health care is mainly being provided by medical staff in people’s homes.
Moreover, medical facilities in Taiz and the rest of the country are being hit by airstrikes and ground shelling. Most recently, Al Shiara hospital, supported by MSF in Razeh, northern Yemen, was hit by a missile on January 10, killing six people and wounding eight.
"During war, people have a right to medical care," says Kleijer. "Blocking people from health care should never be used as a military tool. It is good news for the people living in the besieged area that these essential supplies were able to enter. We ask all parties to the conflict to reduce the suffering of the people in Yemen and continue to allow for medical supplies and essentials such as food and fuel to enter all severely affected areas in the country."
Today, MSF works in more than 70 countries in the world including Yemen. In Yemen, MSF is still working in Sa’ada, Aden, Sana’a, Al-Dhale’, Amran, Taiz, Hajja, and Ibb governorates. Since the beginning of 2015, MSF teams in Yemen received more than 88,000 patients in emergency rooms, treated 20,539 war wounded, performed more than 11,000 surgical interventions and more than 5,000 deliveries, and admitted more than 10,000 adult patients and children in inpatient departments.