January 2, 2018 / 5:01 PM / 17 days ago

Saudi-led coalition denies blocking aid to Yemen

RIYADH (Reuters) - The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen has denied blocking aid and basic supplies from entering, following a Reuters story detailing how Yemen is struggling to cope with a new outbreak of the bacterial disease diphtheria.

The Dec. 29 report (reut.rs/2Dss5by) quoted the World Health Organization as saying 380 patients had been admitted to hospitals across Yemen with diphtheria since August. The spread of the disease compounds widespread hunger and one of the worst cholera outbreaks ever recorded.

In a statement to Reuters, the Saudi-led coalition statement did not specifically address diphtheria.

“The Coalition categorically denies blocking any aid or vital provisions from reaching the Yemeni people, and asserts that these claims lack any viable evidence,” a coalition spokesman said in an emailed statement.

A Saudi-led blockade aimed at blocking arms to Houthi militia has ended up isolating a country that was already the poorest in the Middle East, according to the Reuters report and an earlier investigation (reut.rs/2gzvzjn).

Vital provisions – food, medicine, fuel, medical equipment, batteries, solar panels and more – are not getting through.

Humanitarian shipments of food and medicine have mostly been allowed into the country, the story said, but Saudi-led forces have delayed both aid and commercial shipments and have also closed ports outright.

The spokesman blamed the Houthis for holding up humanitarian supplies, hurting the supply of medical assistance and interrupting vaccination campaigns by international aid groups.

Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Nick Tattersall

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