Situation in Yemen critical, no safe place in Sanaa – Red Cross spokesperson

Red Cross medics carry a wounded man to a plane during an evacuation of injured people from Dammaj, in Yemen's northwestern province of Saana (Reuters / Stringer)
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is critical and the Red Cross’ priority is to provide hospitals with medical supplies to help the wounded in airstrikes and clashes, says Sitara Jabeen, the International Committee of the Red Cross for Near and Mideast

RT:Your organization wants obstacles removed so you can get vital medical supplies into Yemen. What are those hurdles?

Sitara Jabeen: In Yemen today we have a very serious humanitarian situation. The hospitals are running at a low capacity and the Red Cross has been supplying medicines and other medical supplies to the hospitals over the last few weeks now. We need to bring in urgent medical supplies to sustain our stocks and to make sure that all the people who have been wounded because of the airstrikes, but also because of the street battles and clashes that are taking place on the ground, are able to get the treatment they need. We were expecting today to bring in a plane that will carry medical supplies for 700-1,000 patients. We were planning to bring it into Sana’a but so far we have not been able to get the permission we need to move this plane from Jordan to Yemen.

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RT:So is it because of logistical problems or because of this permission?

SJ: For us the main issue is to get the permission we need, the official permission from all the parties who are concerned with this so that we are able to mobilize. For us it’s not a logistical problem. The Red Cross, the ICRC, has a warehouse in Yemen and we have these supplies available in Jordan. It’s just a matter of loading a plane in Amman and bringing it in to Sana’a but we need the permission to be able to do that.

RT:Who are you negotiating with, and are they being receptive?

SJ: In Yemen today we are talking to almost all the parties to the conflict. To be able to bring in this plane we are negotiating with the coalition members but also with people who can have influence on bringing in these supplies and also distributing them in Yemen to the local hospitals. So at the moment we are talking to the authorities in Yemen and also the coalition members and we are trying our best.

RT:How long will this talking go on before this plane is allowed in?

SJ: I cannot predict that. It depends. We are making constant efforts, and for the time being we do have some stock in Yemen available and we have been supplying the local hospitals in the southern part of the country and also in the north - wherever there have been strikes or clashes between groups. …The Ministry of Health is really overwhelmed with the situation in Yemen. So we have to bring in these supplies so that the Ministry of Health and the local hospitals are able to provide the treatment that people need the most at the moment. I can’t say how long it will take but we are trying our best.

RT:Where in Yemen is the situation at its worst?

SJ: The most affected area for the time being is the southern part of Yemen especially in Aden. There has been fighting around the Aden airport and also in Aden’s central neighborhoods, there have been airstrikes as well in the area not just in the Aden city but also in the neighboring provinces Shabwah as well as Al Dhale. And I would also say that one of the Yemeni Red Cross volunteers was shot dead in Al Dhale yesterday when he was evacuating injured people to an ambulance. So the situation especially in the southern part of Yemen is very critical and that’s what we are focusing on at the moment.

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RT:International law prohibits attacks that might cause incidental losses among civilians. How does that tally with yesterday's coalition strike at the refugee camp?

SJ: There have been extensive reports about that. But as I said our priority at the moment is to make sure that the hospitals have the supplies they need to treat the wounded patients, that’s what we are focusing on. At the same time I would also like to highlight that the situation in Yemen is so critical for everyone, there is no safe place in Sana’a in particular at the moment. There has been shelling close to the area where our office is for example. So it’s very difficult to obtain the information we need and to be able to go and visit all the affected areas, it’s not that easy. We are trying our best at the moment. But the priority is to bring medical supplies which hospitals need the most right now.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.