Read caption Over 54,000 people have been killed or injured since the escalation of violence in 2015, and close to half a million affected by cases of suspected cholera since April this year, as Yemen’s already fragile health system struggles to meet basic health needs. Photo: Nuha Mohammed/NRC.

Yemen airport closure killed more people than airstrikes

Published 09. Aug 2017
One year since Sana’a Airport was shut down, more Yemenis have died from not being able to travel for specialised medical care than those who have been killed by airstrikes.

10,000 Yemenis have now died from health conditions for which they were seeking medical treatment abroad, according to data from the Ministry of Health in Sana’a. The number exceeds the alarming death toll of close to 9,000 people killed in violent attacks.

Restrictions imposed on Yemen’s airspace by the Saudi-led coalition resulted in the official closure of the Sana’a International Airport to commercial flights on the 9th of August, 2016, leaving many Yemenis with no safe means of transport in or outside the country.

Prior to the escalation of conflict in Yemen, an estimated 7,000 Yemenis were travelling abroad from Sana’a International Airport for medical treatment not available within the country, a number that grew exponentially following the escalation of violence in early 2015.

“Denial of access to travel has condemned thousands of Yemenis with survivable illnesses to death,” said Mutasim Hamdan, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in Yemen. “Beyond airstrikes and cholera, the war in Yemen is devastating Yemeni lives on all fronts.”

More than 54,000 people have been killed or injured since the escalation of violence in 2015, and close to half a million affected by cases of suspected cholera since April this year, as Yemen’s already fragile health system struggles to meet basic health needs.

“Without access to safe, commercial travel, Yemenis are left with no way to access critical medical care. The result is devastating; thousands of women, men and children who could have been saved have now lost their lives,” said Hamdan. 

Mohammed’s father was among thousands of Yemenis with an urgent need for medical treatment outside the country. “The only way to save my father’s life was to take him abroad, the treatment needed was not available in Yemen.” Mohammed travelled with his father for 24 hours by road to Seiyun Airport, in Yemen’s south.

“The doctors said that it was dangerous for him to travel all the way there, that he might die on the way, but it was our only option. We had to pass through many checkpoints. But the journey was too much for my father.” Mohammed’s father died less than a day before his flight.

Since the escalation of conflict in Yemen in March 2015, violent attacks have resulted in more than 54,000 casualties, and devastated existing infrastructure. 1.2 million Yemeni civil servants have not been paid their usual salaries for up to a year, causing the slow collapse of public services and swift escalation of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

“Yemen’s public services are crumbling under the pressures of war: hundreds of thousands more people are sick, injured or in need of services, but there are drastically reduced resources to meet them,” said Hamdan. “It is critical that all channels of domestic and international air movement are reopened so Yemenis can get help, and help can get to Yemenis.”

Facts
  • Some 20.7 million people – almost three quarters of the total Yemeni population – require some form of humanitarian assistance or protection to meet their basic needs.
  • More than 2 million Yemenis remain displaced by violence.
  • Around 17 million people suffer from food insecurity, including more than 3 million children, pregnant and lactating women suffering from acute malnutrition.
  • More than 450,000 cases of suspected cholera have been identified in Yemen in less than four months. 1,900 people have died.
  • The cost of food in Yemen is 33 per cent higher than it was before the crisis.
NRC in Yemen
  • In 2016, NRC reached 1.2 million Yemenis with lifesaving assistance.
  • NRC’s assistance in Yemen includes food, shelter, water, and education.
  • NRC serves people in the governorates of Amran, Hajja, Taiz, Al Hudaydah, Lahj, Aden and Amanet Al Asima.