GENEVA (Reuters) - United Nations convoys of food and medical supplies have reached the southern Yemeni province of Aden, but fighting around Aden’s port is still preventing ships from docking, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.
A 40-truck convoy carrying enough food for 117,000 people for a month reached the province after being held at the Rabat checkpoint outside Aden since July 9, said Abeer Etefa, a spokeswoman for the U.N. World Food Programme in Cairo.
The World Health Organization also brought 46.4 tonnes of aid into the city of Aden on Saturday, including trauma kits, medicines to treat malaria and diarrhoeal diseases, and sanitation supplies for more than 84,000 people.
Johannes Van Der Klaauw, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said it took “days and days to organise the safe passage” of the medical supplies.
Hopes of shipping 500,000 litres of fuel to Aden - needed for aid distribution and hospital generators - were still stymied by the fighting.
“The area around the port for the last 48 hours has been a war zone,” Etefa said.
More than 3,000 people have been killed and 1.2 million displaced in a conflict between Shi‘ite Houthis and forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia is leading a Sunni coalition that has carried out air strikes since late March in support of Hadi, which aid workers say worsened the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
The U.N. says 21 million people need help, about 80 percent of the population of the country. Around 6.1 million are in a food emergency, one step below famine on a five-step scale. Another 6.9 million are in a “critical” situation.
The food convoy was the U.N.’s first major resupply for the province since March.
A week-long U.N.-brokered ceasefire was meant to begin on Saturday to allow the delivery of aid. It failed to take hold after Saudi Arabia refused to recognise the truce and continued air strikes.
“Since the pause didn’t take place, we still have a big problem that Aden is not reachable by sea. And it should be,” Van Der Klaauw told a news briefing.
Etefa said the security situation on the ground had not change significantly and shops were running out of basic commodities.
As ships are diverted to the northern port of Hodeida, goods have to be trucked to Aden. The perception is “that vessels have only gone into that part of Yemen which is in the hands of the de facto Houthi authorities”, Van Der Klaauw said.
Saudi Arabia pledged $274 million in mid-April to cover an emergency appeal for Yemen but has not yet paid the money to the United Nations, whose agencies are negotiating with Saudi authorities on the “branding” of Saudi-funded aid, Van Der Klaauw said.
“I don’t want to go into too much detail, but donors often want that their humanitarian partners give visibility to their donations ... and we deal here with a donor who is also party to the conflict,” he said.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles,; editing by Larry King