On Wednesday 13 June, forces loyal to President Hadi, backed by the Saudi and Emirati-led international coalition (SELC) have launched a military offensive on Hodeidah, whose strategic port on the Red sea remains one of the few lifelines left for people living in northern Yemen.
Heavy fighting between Ansar Allah (Al Houthis) and SELC-backed forces have been ongoing since the beginning of May, and frontlines have been moving from Taiz governorate towards Hodeidah city, where 600,000 people still live. All international UN and NGO staff are now evacuating the city, after an ultimatum sent by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the UN on 6 June gave them three days to do so.
In Hodeidah city, MSF teams are providing medical supplies to Al Thawrah hospital, the main public hospital serving Hodeidah governorate, whose capacity is already stretched thin. In Far Al Udayn district, west of Ibb, MSF is also donating supplies to a health facility receiving people wounded by the fighting in Hodeidah.
“The lack of humanitarian assistance, following suspension of aid programmes and with limited NGO staff on the ground while a military offensive is ongoing, will have severe consequences on a region already facing restrictions on the import and internal transportation of vital supplies, including medicines, food and fuel” explains Frederic Pelat, MSF head of mission in Yemen. Yemenis living in the northern parts of the country depend on vital supplies that pass through Hodeidah’s port. “It is crucial that warring parties ensure civilians are able to move freely as they look for safe locations to shelter,” added Pelat.
Every day since the clashes began in May, MSF teams in Aden have been receiving patients coming from Hodeidah in need of vital medical care. “The vast majority of Hodeidah residents that we have treated in MSF Aden hospital are vital emergencies. They are driving at least six hours to reach Aden, most of the time in critical conditions” explains Ghazali Babiker, project coordinator for MSF.
Before reaching Aden, civilians injured on the frontlines are evacuated to Mocha, a city located 180 kms south of Hodeidah, surrounded by northern and eastern frontlines. “There’s only one hospital in Mocha, where the injured can be stabilized in the emergency room. But the hospital does not have an operating theatre, which means patients cannot receive much-needed surgeries,” says Babiker. MSF is providing both donations of medical supply and training at Mocha hospital. The lack of appropriate medical care on the frontlines, before medical evacuation, and delayed surgical intervention, remains a major cause of medical complications.
Over the past few weeks, the MSF hospital in Aden has been working at full capacity receiving people from the areas around as well as the few other functioning health facilities in the city. “The pressure on the remaining health structures is already huge, even though the military offensive just started a couple of days ago” adds Ghazali Babiker.