October 12, 2015 / 7:47 PM / 4 years ago

No fuel delivered to Yemen despite president's pledge: U.N.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Yemen only received one percent of its monthly commercial fuel needs in September and there have been no shipments since the war-torn country’s president pledged to the United Nations a week ago to allow deliveries, the world body said on Monday.

A man sells black market fuel amid an acute shortage of fuel in Sanaa, Yemen, July 1, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayagh

Yemen relies on imports, but a near-total blockade led by Saudi Arabia has slowed shipments to a trickle. An Arab coalition is inspecting shipments in a bid to thwart any arms deliveries to Iranian-linked Houthi rebels.

The Houthis and their allies - forces loyal to former Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh - seized the capital, Sanaa, a year ago. The Saudi-led coalition began bombing them in March in a bid to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s authority.

“In a letter to the U.N. Secretary-General (Ban Ki-moon) on 6 October, President Hadi pledged to allow the import of fuel through all ports,” U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters on Monday. “Despite this pledge, no commercial fuel has yet been imported, and 11 commercial ships remain anchored off-shore.”

He said the ships were waiting to berth at Al Hudaydah port.

Fuel shortages have spread disease and suffering in arid Yemen, where access to water usually depends on fuel-powered pumps, the U.N. says. Hospitals struggle to operate without fuel and aid cannot be delivered.

The United Nations has designated Yemen as one of its highest-level humanitarian crises, alongside emergencies in South Sudan, Syria and Iraq. It says more than 21 million people in Yemen need help, or about 80 percent of the population.

“Only 1 percent of the monthly requirements for commercial fuel for Yemen were imported through Red Sea ports during September, down from a low 12 percent in August,” Haq said.

During Hadi’s speech to the annual United Nations General Assembly last month, he blamed the Houthis for the blockade and the humanitarian crisis.

Yemen relies on imports for 90 percent of its food, and Haq said commercial food prices had soared about 45 percent.

The United States told U.N. chief Ban that Saudi King Salman had pledged to allow “unfettered access” to all humanitarian aid, including fuel, during a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama last month.

The United Nations and international rights groups are alarmed at the increasing number of civilians being killed in Yemen, at least 2,355 out of more than 4,500 dead in the past six months.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Grant McCool

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