The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen is to reopen the rebel-held port of Hudaydah and Sanaa’s airport for aid deliveries, after urgent UN appeals.
The coalition, which backs Yemen’s government, tightened its blockade of the country two weeks ago in response to a rebel missile attack on Riyadh.
Aid deliveries to government-controlled air and sea ports resumed last week.
The UN said that was insufficient and warned “untold thousands” in rebel-held areas would die without fresh supplies.
On Wednesday, the coalition announced it had carried out a review of the UN’s inspection and verification procedures aimed at halting the alleged smuggling of weapons to the rebel Houthi movement and its allies.
As a result, the coalition said it had decided to reopen the Red Sea port of Hudaydah “to receive urgent humanitarian and relief materials” and reopen Sanaa airport to “UN aircraft, designated for humanitarian and relief efforts”.
- Yemen: Finding near-famine – and lots of food
- Yemen’s civilians pay price of blockade
- Witnessing Yemen’s desperate suffering
- Yemen conflict: Who is fighting whom?
The steps will be implemented at 12:00 local time (09:00 GMT) on Thursday.
The coalition also said it would soon announce a “comprehensive humanitarian operations plan that aims to provide assistance and relief to the Yemeni people, and to facilitate the delivery of food to all the governorates of Yemen”.
Last Thursday, the directors of the World Health Programme, World Food Programme and Unicef warned of potential disaster. They said that unless the coalition permitted the delivery of life-saving supplies to Hudaydah and another rebel-held port, “untold thousands of innocent victims, among them many children, will die”.
More than 8,670 people – 60% of them civilians – have been killed and 49,960 injured in Yemen since the coalition intervened in the war between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthis in 2015, according to the UN.
The conflict has also left 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, created the world’s largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is believed to have affected 913,000 people and caused 2,196 deaths.