Yemen: Saudi-Led Coalition Must Allow Access for Humanitarian Organizations

Florian Seriex/MSF

SANA'A, YEMEN/NEW YORK, NOVEMBER 8, 2017—The Saudi-led coalition has not allowed Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) flights into Yemen for the past three days, directly hindering the organization's ability to provide life-saving medical and humanitarian assistance to a population already in dire need.

MSF is calling on the Saudi-led coalition to immediately allow unhindered access so that humanitarian assistance can reach those most in need in Yemen.

On November 6, the Saudi-led coalition stated that all Yemeni border crossings, sea ports and airports would be closed immediately, but that they would consider "the entry and exit of humanitarian supplies and crews." So far, however, this promise has not been kept. 

"For the past three days, the Saudi-led coalition has not allowed MSF to fly from Djibouti to Sana'a or Aden, despite continued requests for authorization for our flights," said Justin Armstrong, MSF head of mission in Yemen. "Access for humanitarian personnel and cargo into Yemen is essential to deliver desperately needed assistance to a population already severely affected by more than two and a half years of conflict."

Access to health care across Yemen is already severely limited. Hundreds of health facilities have been closed, damaged or destroyed during the conflict. The conflict has displaced millions of people in Yemen and has decreased access to basic goods, including food and water.

"The broader impact of this blockade on the men, women and children of Yemen is already evident and it puts hundreds of thousands of lives at risk," Armstrong said. "Fuel prices have skyrocketed in major centers, supplies of diesel and cooking gas are becoming scarce, and shipments of essential medicines are stuck at border crossings. The already devastated Yemeni economy will undoubtedly decline further, making it more and more difficult for Yemenis to meet their basic needs, which is why humanitarian assistance is so vital."

The statement by the Saudi-led coalition also included a broader warning for humanitarian organizations to avoid certain areas within Yemen. This would further exclude thousands of people most affected by the crisis from essential health care. Such measures would contradict the humanitarian principle that assistance should reach those who need it most, regardless of any political considerations.

MSF currently works in 13 hospitals and health centers in Yemen and provides support to more than 18 hospitals or health centers across 11 Yemeni governorates: Taiz, Aden, Al-Dhale', Saada, Amran, Hajjah, Ibb, Sana'a, Hodaida, Abyan, and Lahj. MSF has nearly 1,600 staff in Yemen, including 82 international staff, and provides financial support to more than 1,100 Ministry of Heath staff.