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12 August, 2015

Red Cross: Yemen humanitarian crisis 'catastrophic'

The Red Cross says the world must “wake up” to the spiraling humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Civilians in Yemen are living in appalling conditions compounded by heavy fighting and a Saudi Arabian blockade, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday.

After a three day tour of the war-torn nation, Peter Maurer urged the international community to “wake up.”

The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic. Every family in Yemen has been affected by this conflict. The people are facing immense hardship. And it is getting worse by the day,” he said.

The ICRC head warned that “intense” fighting has devastated civilian infrastructure including hospitals. He also cited “import restrictions” as a major hurdle to providing humanitarian relief. Since Saudi Arabia launched its military offensive in March, Yemen has been largely cut off from the outside world by a Saudi blockade.

While Saudi Arabia says the blockade is necessary to curb the flow of arms into the war zone, human rights groups argue the measure has exacerbated a growing humanitarian crisis by slowing aid deliveries.

Medicines can't get in so patient care is falling apart. Fuel shortages mean equipment doesn't work. Insecurity means vaccination campaigns don't happen,” Maurer said.

He continued by stating, “This cannot go on. Yemen is crumbling. As a matter of urgency, there must be free movement of goods into and across the country. Deliveries of food, water and medicine should be facilitated.”

An estimated 4,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s conflict since March, while 1.3 million people have been displaced.

Maurer's desperate plea was issued as Saudi-backed forces in Yemen continued an offensive to wrestle the country's south from the Houthi. Fighters say they have totally pushed the Houthi from the southern province of Abyan, potentially a major victory for Saudi-backed factions.

Saudi Arabia has backed ousted Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, who was removed from power by the Houthis earlier this year.

The Saudis have demanded the Houthi hand power back to Hadi, though the movement remains in control of much of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

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