First aid plane in three weeks reaches Yemen


Three planes carrying humanitarian aid and aid workers landed in Yemen's capital on Saturday, the first delivery to the war-torn nation in almost three weeks due to a blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition that controls the entry points.

"First plane landed in Sana'a this morning with humanitarian aid workers", WFP's regional spokeswoman Abeer Etefa told Reuters in an email. The UN humanitarian affairs office said desperately needed shipments of food and medical supplies were unable to arrive at the Red Sea port of Hodeida, which remains blocked.

The United Nations children's fund (UNICEF) said one flight carried "over 15 tonnes" of vaccines that will cover some 600,000 children against diphtheria, tetanus and other diseases.

A spokesman for the US-backed coalition said in a statement issued on Friday that 82 permits have been issued for worldwide aid missions since November 4, both for the Sanaa airport and Hodeidah, the country's main port where some 80 per cent of food supplies enter. About 7 million people face starvation in Yemen and their survival depends on global assistance.

United Nations officials cautiously welcomed the decision and said they also expect the port of Salef also reopen.

Saudi Arabia tightened a blockade on Yemen earlier this month after Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the country fired a rocket deep into the conservative Sunni Muslim country.

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The Sunni alliance said the closure was aimed at stopping the flow of Iranian arms to the Shiite Houthis.

The UN said in August that more than 20 million people are at risk from starvation in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and the northeast of Nigeria.

The missile was struck down but it was the farthest a projectile by the rebels, also known as Houthis, had penetrated into the kingdom.

On Thursday, Qatar's foreign minister attacked Saudi Arabia over what he called a "humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen".

The UN says a continuation of the two-week blockade would make Yemen's war-battered population more vulnerable to cholera and starvation.

The Hudaydah region is controlled by the Houthi armed group, which the Saudi-led coalition was invited to neutralise by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in March 2015.