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Conflict in Yemen Blocks Humanitarian Aid

  • Lisa Schlein

File - Amid an acute water shortage, women and children wait to fill buckets from a public tap in Sana'a, Yemen, May 2015.

File - Amid an acute water shortage, women and children wait to fill buckets from a public tap in Sana'a, Yemen, May 2015.

The escalating war in Yemen is hampering delivery of urgently needed humanitarian aid to millions in Yemen, United Nations aid agencies report. The agencies say only a fraction of the country's 21 million-plus people in need are receiving aid.

Airstrikes and mortars damaged two offices of the International Organization for Migration in Haradh and Basateen in the Aden governorate on Wednesday. No one was killed or wounded, but these attacks highlight the dangers encountered by aid workers in Yemen.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Adrian Edwards said UNHCR and its partners have been able to deliver nonfood aid to just over 84,000 displaced people since the start of April, shortly after Saudi Arabia began its bombing campaign against Houthi rebels.

"Yemen’s aid situation remains extraordinarily difficult," Edwards said. "Distributions have come amid a worsening situation in many governorates. Al Hazm, the capital of Al Jawf governorate in the country’s north, was hit by airstrikes over three consecutive days in late June,” forcing the evacuation of "some at least 900 families."

Instability poses problems

Constant insecurity remains a fundamental obstacle to the effective delivery of food throughout the country, according to the World Food Program. WFP spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs said the situation is particularly dire in Yemen’s principal port city of Aden.

"WFP has attempted several times to reach Aden with ships, but insecurities around the port forced ships to turn back," said Byrs. "However, we are still trying … by land and, of course, by sea."

Byrs said WFP has succeeded in distributing food for 80,000 people in June. Still, she noted Aden has a population of 1 million, so this has barely made a dent in the huge needs.

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