DUBAI: The battle for a crucial Yemeni port has placed the lives of dozens of children in danger at a hospital perilously close to the fighting, the United Nations’ children’s agency said yesterday.
“Intense fighting in the Yemeni port city of Hodeida is now dangerously close to Al-Thawra hospital — putting the lives of 59 children, including 25 in the intensive care unit, at imminent risk of death,” UNICEF said in a statement.
Government troops and rebels have been clashing for five days near the Red Sea port city, which is crucial for humanitarian aid and where hundreds of thousands of civilians could be trapped as war closes in. The fighting between Iran-linked Huthi rebels and the army, allied with a regional military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, has killed more than 150 combatants.
UNICEF reported that medical staff and patients in the hospital in southern Hodeida city, just 500 metres from the port, heard heavy bombing and gunfire.
“Access to and from the hospital, the only functioning one in the area, is now imperilled,” it said.
Hodeida is one of the last Huthi strongholds on Yemen’s western coastline.
The rebels seized the port, along with the capital Sanaa, in 2014.
The Saudi-led alliance, which includes the United Arab Emirates, intervened in 2015 on the side of the government and has since retaken most of the country’s ports.
But Hodeida is particularly sensitive as it is the conduit for the vast majority of imports to Yemen, where famine looms over 14 million people and a child dies every 10 minutes, according to the UN.
“The toll in lives could be catastrophic if the port is damaged, destroyed or blocked,” UNICEF said yesterday. —Agencies