April 12, 2015 / 1:53 PM / 4 years ago

Retrieving dead and wounded can be fatal in Yemen conflict

ADEN (Reuters) - Bodies are piling up in the streets of Aden and some of the wounded are stranded in agony. But retrieving the victims of Yemen’s increasingly chaotic war can itself be fatal.

Humanitarian and emergency workers are now vulnerable to what residents say are an abundance of snipers on rooftops, who have paralyzed movement in the once bustling port city now challenged by shortages of food and water.

“Our paramedics face being targeted while doing their job. There are dead and wounded left in the street whom we cannot reach,” said Abdullah Radman, a doctor with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Last week, two brothers working for the ICRC were killed by snipers while traveling in an ambulance to evacuate the wounded.

Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies have been bombing Yemen for over two weeks, aiming to halt the advance of Iranian-allied Shi’ite Houthi fighters on Aden in the south.

What is widely seen as a sectarian proxy war between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran is inflicting suffering on residents and aid workers caught in the fighting.

The United Nations says the conflict, in which the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in northern Yemen in September, has killed 600 people, wounded 2,200 and displaced 100,000 others.

The mayhem is only spreading.

Residents told Reuters that Houthis have stormed apartment buildings in Aden and forced out inhabitants so they can set up sniper positions on balconies and rooftops. Those accounts could not be independently confirmed.

ICRC official Marie Claire Feghali said she had heard reports from Aden that armed factions had stolen most of the ambulances from hospitals.

Even if aid workers manage to get the wounded to hospitals, they are treated by exhausted doctors working around the clock, and supplies of life-saving medicine are running low.

“Water’s low and the electricity repeatedly cuts out. There’s gunfire, explosions and air strikes constantly, which is terrifying the patients and only adding to the difficulty of providing treatment,” said Radman.

Scarce food and water have raised fears of a humanitarian disaster.

Most of Aden’s bakeries have shut because of a shortage of flour due to the closure of the port and fighting on the main roads to the city, residents said.

“We would make our bread at home if we could, but we don’t have the fuel to even do that,” said resident Khaled Murshidi.

Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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