First UN flights brings emergency aid to Yemen

UNHCR uses the pause in fighting to land the first of what it hopes will be six planeloads of emergency supplies

The first UNHCR flights bringing urgently needed aid to war-ravaged Yemen arrived in Sana'a on Friday. Up to four more flights will follow in coming days with blankets, kitchen sets and sleeping mats from UNHCR stockpiles in Dubai.  © UNHCR/S.Daud

SANA'A, Yemen, 15 May (UNHCR) - The first UN flights to bring urgently needed aid supplies during a temporary humanitarian pause in the fighting landed in war-ravaged Yemen on Friday.

The first of six planned flights by the UN refugee agency touched down at Sana'a International Airport at 15:45 local time carrying blankets, kitchen utensils and sleeping mats from stockpiles maintained by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Dubai.

A second aircraft arrived later in the afternoon - the third day of the five-day pause in hostilities -- and four more flights will follow over the next two days, provided local security conditions allow.

Together, the six flights will bring 150 metric tons of relief supplies into Sana'a, while more aid is on its way via Djibouti by sea - part of a larger aid effort underway for 250,000 people.

"These supplies will help alleviate the tough conditions for tens of thousands of desperate civilians wrenched from their homes as a result of the escalated conflict, as well as the closing down of what were already threadbare basic services," said Ms Charlotte Ridung, the UNHCR Assistant Representative in Yemen. "Many are now struggling to survive in the open or crowded public buildings."

The population of Yemen now has some breathing space and the humanitarian community the possibility to deliver much needed assistance, she added.

Apart from localized skirmishes, the humanitarian pause, which officially started at 11pm on 12 May, has largely held - opening up roads, markets and supply routes to UNHCR and its partners.

In the last two days, UNHCR and partners have moved and distributed aid for displaced communities in Sana'a, Amran, and Haradh (Hajjah governorate) in the north of Yemen, while aid from UNHCR's Sana'a warehouse has been moved to Aden for distribution to some of the most vulnerable displaced people in the south.

With local partners, UNHCR has also been reaching out to communities, carrying out assessments to plan aid distribution and identify urgent protection needs.

An estimated 450,000 Yemenis have been uprooted from their homes in the recent conflict, joining 330,000 people who were previously displaced. Some 250,000 mainly Somali refugees in Yemen have also been affected, while 29,000 people of mixed nationalities have fled to neighbouring countries.