Yemen: Medical Aid Blocked from Entering Besieged Area in Taiz


TAIZ, YEMEN/AMSTERDAM—Despite weeks of intense negotiations with Ansarallah (Houthi) officials, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) cannot deliver stocks of essential medical supplies to two hospitals in a besieged enclave of the city of Taiz, in southern Yemen, MSF said today, calling for vital supplies to be let in.

MSF’s trucks have been stopped again today at Houthi checkpoints and denied access to the area.

"The hospitals in this besieged area are seeing a large number of patients with war wounds," said Karline Kleijer, MSF emergency manager for Yemen. "And yet we have been prevented from delivering essential medical supplies—including chest tubes, anesthetic drugs, IV fluid, sutures, and antibiotics — to help staff provide lifesaving surgery."

Residents of the enclave in Taiz speak of increasing restrictions to bring in water, fuel, and food supplies. Prices within the besieged area have surged dramatically and people struggle to find enough drinking water.

"It is very frustrating that, after weeks of negotiations, we have made no progress in convincing officials of the need to provide impartial medical assistance to the victims of the ongoing fighting within this enclave, despite the continued support we are providing to health facilities in Houthi-controlled areas," said Kleijer.  

MSF calls on all warring parties to allow humanitarian and medical supplies into all areas, to facilitate access to medical facilities for all the sick and wounded, and to protect health care infrastructure and medical staff in accordance with international humanitarian law and Yemeni traditions.

Ordinary Yemenis living in densely populated areas of Taiz live in constant fear of snipers; stray bullets; and mortar shelling, which is being used indiscriminately by both warring groups; while airstrikes hit Taiz city on a daily basis. People struggle to reach clinics and hospitals due to the fighting, the difficulty of crossing front lines and the lack of transport due to fuel shortages. People seek medical care by visiting known nurses or doctors in their private homes.

Videos: Firsthand Reports from the Conflict in Yemen

The arms embargo on Yemen implemented by the Saudi-led coalition and the UN has turned into a de facto general blockade and led to countrywide critical shortages of food and fuel, which are only available at extortionate prices.

"A large part of the population of Taiz is displaced within the city," said Kleijer. "They are battling for their survival on a daily basis, and fighting to get a hold of sufficient food and water, due to the steep cost of basic necessities and the prevailing insecurity."

Taiz formerly had 20 hospitals for its population of more than 600,000. Due to the conflict, only six of these continue to function, and often only partially. They lack health staff, fuel, and essential medicines, and are overwhelmed by the high numbers of wounded people seeking access to their emergency services on a daily basis.

"The situation in Taiz is dramatic and will only get worse in the coming weeks if no efforts are made to spare civilians from the violence and allow them to access basic services, including health facilities," said Kleijer.  

As an impartial and neutral medical humanitarian organization, MSF supports all hospitals in need of essential supplies in Taiz, whether they are in areas controlled by Ansarallah/Houthi-affiliated forces or by local resistance. In Taiz alone, where MSF has worked uninterruptedly since May, 3,644 war-wounded patients have been treated in MSF-supported hospitals. More than 15,500 war-wounded patients have been treated in MSF-supported hospitals in Yemen since the beginning of March 2015.

MSF is an international medical organization that was founded in 1971. Today, MSF provides impartial and free of charge health services to those in need in more than 70 countries in the world including Yemen. In Yemen, MSF works in eight Yemeni governorates including Sana’a, Saada, Aden, Taiz, Amran, Al-Dhale’, Ibb, and Hajja.

Learn More About MSF's Work in Yemen

An MSF convoy carrying medical supplies crosses the frontlines in Damt District between Aden and Taiz governorates. MSF is trying to deliver essential medical supplies to a besieged area of Taiz.