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Red Cross Leader Visits Yemen to Focus on Humanitarian Crisis


Peter Maurer, center, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, listens to Hamid al-Awadhi, right, undersecretary of Yemen's Foreign Ministry, upon arrival at the international airport of Yemen's capital, Sana'a, August 8, 2015.

The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross is in Yemen to shine a light on what the agency calls the country's dire humanitarian crisis.

Peter Maurer told reporters in the rebel-held capital of Sana'a on Saturday that he also wanted to "ensure that the rules and principles are respected during warfare."

Maurer said he planned to meet with all sides in the fighting in Yemen.

Iranian-backed Shi'ite Houthi rebels took over Sana'a last September and seized the important southern port city of Aden in March, forcing the Western-backed government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi-led airstrikes and fighting on the ground between the Houthis and pro-government forces have compounded the misery in Yemen. About 80 percent of the population needs immediate food and humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

Pro-government fighters have made progress against the Houthis in recent weeks, including taking back control of Aden. This will most likely make delivery of emergency supplies speedier and more efficient.

Fighters backed by the Arab military coalition also seized the key city of Zinjibar in southern Yemen on Saturday, residents and militia sources said. The capital city of Abyan province on the Arabian Sea had been a major focus of forces battling the Iranian-allied Houthis, and it was the fourth regional capital they have won since taking control of the port of Aden last month.

But the Houthis still control northern Yemen, and U.N. attempts to organize peace talks have been unsuccessful.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.