Closing Yemen’s key airport puts millions at risk, aid groups warn

A Saudi-led coalition’s ongoing closure of Yemen’s main airport in the rebel-held capital Sana’a puts millions of lives in the war-torn country at risk, 12 aid groups said on Sunday.

The groups called on the coalition, engaged in an air campaign against rebels in Yemen, to lift restrictions on Yemeni airspace in order to allow for the reopening of the Sana’a International Airport, and to allow humanitarian flights to resume. 

"Alongside humanitarian flights, commercial flights which also often bring in vital supplies and allow the free movement of civilians should also be allowed to recommence," the groups said in a joint statement.

The airport was closed on Monday, two days after UN-sponsored peace talks between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-allied rebels ended in Kuwait without a breakthrough.

The coalition has since intensified airstrikes on Sana’a and other rebel-controlled parts of Yemen.

The Sana'a airport remained shut on Sunday, according to the humanitarian groups.

"The closure of Yemen’s main airport, which serves much of the country, is inexcusable when millions of Yemeni families are in urgent need of life-saving assistance," said Syma Jamil, a country director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the signatories to the statement.

"The closure only serves to make it even more difficult for aid agencies to get help to those that desperately need it, cutting off an important humanitarian assistance lifeline," she added.

Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, has been in the grip of a civil strife since late 2014.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and fellow Sunni partners started an air campaign in Yemen against the mostly Shiite rebels.

As a result of the conflict, more than 14 million Yemenis are in need of food aid, the relief groups said on Sunday.

"The closure effectively seals Yemen off from the rest of the world at a time when half the population is malnourished and hospitals urgently require more medicine and medical supplies," Jamil said.

"We call on the Saudi-led coalition to immediately lift all airspace restrictions in order to allow for the airport to be re-opened without further delay."

Last update: Sun, 14/08/2016 - 19:01

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