Millions of Yemenis suffer 'nightmare' of war as closed borders halt aid

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hardship is intensifying for millions in Yemen, reeling from war, starvation and a major cholera epidemic, after its borders were closed, blocking vital food and medical deliveries, an aid worker said on Wednesday.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi movement in Yemen said on Monday that it was closing all air, land and sea ports to stem the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran.

“People have adapted to the situation but they can’t take it anymore,” Adnan Hizam, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.

“They need the nightmare of the conflict to stop.”

The ICRC and the United Nations (U.N.) have urged the Saudi-led coalition to re-open the border to allow life-saving aid in.

A quarter of Yemen’s 28 million people are starving, while half a million children under the age of five are suffering life-threatening malnutrition, the U.N. says.

The Arabian Peninsula nation is also battling one of the world’s worst cholera outbreaks, which has infected about 900,000 people and killed more than 2,100 since April, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The ICRC said on Tuesday that a shipment of chlorine tablets to prevent cholera did not get border clearance and voiced fears for 50,000 vials of insulin for diabetics due to be delivered by next week, which require constant refrigeration.

“People are fed up,” Hizam said. “They are just trying to survive. Every morning people are looking for water, waiting in line to get gas, and trying to work,” he added.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Tuesday that the price of fuel jumped 60 percent “overnight” and the price of cooking gas doubled.

Hizam said this is a major problem for hospitals, which rely on fuel to run generators.