11/27/2017, 11.32
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Riyadh loosens blockade on Yemen, opens up to first load of UN aid

A ship has sailed to the port of Saleef, in an area controlled by Houthi Shiite rebels. At the United Nations cargo there was a commercial vessel containing 5,500 tonnes of wheat flour. WFP: loosening the blockade "positive signal". Unicef: 11 million children in "desperate need".

Sana'a (AsiaNews / Agencies) - During these hours, a United Nations ship loaded with food and first aid supplies is sailing into a Yemen port, in an area controlled by Houthi Shiite rebels. For the first time since the Saudi blockade at the beginning of the month and following numerous appeals, the top international body has been able to complete aid delivery to a war-torn population.

On November 25, a plane containing medicines was able to land at Sana'a International Airport, in the Yemen capital. Inside, there were 1.9 million doses of vaccines; however, for UNICEF experts it is only a small fraction of what is needed.

Yesterday, however, an UN cargo containing thousands of tons of food arrived at the port of Saleef. According to Stephen Anderson, Yemeni Director of the World Food Program (WFP), it carries enough food for 1.8 million people in the northern areas of the country, controlled by the Houthi.

Because of the Saudi blockade, the ship has been moored for more than two weeks off the coast while waiting for permission to enter. Th UN cargo was carried by a commercial vessel containing 5,500 tons of grain flour, which was moored at the port of Hudaydah, south of Saleef, also controlled by the Houthi.

"This is a positive signal," says Anderson, "because humanitarian aid alone will fail to respond to the overall needs of the North Yemen population."

Since January 2015, Yemen has been the scene of a bloody civil war opposing the country’s Sunni elites led by former President Hadi, backed by Riyadh, and Shia Houthi rebels, who are close to Iran.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led Arab coalition began attacking the  rebels, sparking criticism from the United Nations over heavy casualties, including many children. So far, some 10,000 people, including more than 3,700 civilians, have been killed, and at least 2.5 million have been displaced. In recent days, the apostolic vicar also confirmed to AsiaNews the gravity of the "disaster".

The war has particularly affected children. According to UNICEF experts 11 million are in the "desperate need" of humanitarian aid. Geert Cappelaere, regional director of the UN children’s’ organization, points out that "today it is easy to say that Yemen is one of the worst places on Earth to be a child." "Today's - he concludes - estimates say that every 10 minutes a child dies in Yemen from an easily curable illnesses."

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