The closure of Yemen's Sanaa International Airport has led to the deaths of over 95,000 patients who were in urgent need of medical treatment overseas, an official in the Houthi-led government said yesterday.
Raed Taleb, undersecretary of the General Authority for Civil Aviation and Meteorology (CAMA), announced the figures during a press conference and protest vigil held by the Ministry of Transport and CAMA at the airport, coinciding with the fifth anniversary since the US-backed, Saudi-led coalition imposed restrictions on the country's airspace, resulting in the closure of the main airport to commercial flights.
According to Taleb, over 480,000 patients who urgently need to travel for treatment abroad are affected, with more than 30 of them dying a day. "More than a million patients are at risk of death as a result of the lack of many medicines for chronic diseases, which were transported through Sanaa International Airport under special transport conditions," he said.
— مطار صنعاء الدولي Sana'a Int'I Airport (@Sanaaairport) August 10, 2021
The Director of Sanaa International Airport, Khaled Al-Shayef, also explained that the continued closure of Sanaa airport to civilian flights over the years has exacerbated the humanitarian situation in the country, deemed the worst in the world by the UN.
"There are international demands to open Sanaa airport as a result of the catastrophic humanitarian repercussions of its continued closure, and the coalition countries are still insisting on linking this to other files, including military and political ones," Al-Shayef said.
#Sanaa's airport closure for the fifth consecutive year has left stranded at least 32,000 critically ill #Yemen-i patients in need of life-saving treatment abroad since the first and last medical flights in February last year#YemenCantWait https://t.co/UWTbOlyRAx
— CARE in Yemen (@CARE_Yemen) August 5, 2021
Last week, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and CARE reported that the closure of the airport had left thousands of Yemeni patients stranded in the war-torn country. The closure is also causing economic losses estimated to be in the billions.
"It's like a hostage situation that has lasted for five years," said NRC Yemen Acting Country Director, Isaac Ooko.
"Patients are trapped in Yemen, even when there is a route to save them. For thousands of sick Yemenis who need urgent medical treatment abroad, these last five years have amounted to a death sentence. For five years Yemenis have been stripped of their right to travel abroad to seek medical care, conduct business, work, study or visit family. Thousands of Yemenis living abroad are stranded outside the country or face difficulties visiting home."
The report noted that since the first and last medical flights in February last year in which 28 patients were flown out, some 32,000 remain on the waiting list.
In March, Taleb was quoted by the official Saba news agency as explaining that the closure of the airport was caused by fuel shortages, which were a result of the coalition-imposed blockade on the vital Al-Hudaydah port.