Yemen conflict: Aden a ‘ghost city’ as death toll rises

Robert Ghosen said medical aid was urgently needed in the city, where Shia Houthi rebels are fighting forces loyal to the government.

Aid agencies say more than 540 people have been killed in recent fighting and more than 100,000 have been displaced.

The conflict has acquired sectarian overtones, ensnaring regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi has fled to Saudi Arabia, while his supporters – backed for the last fortnight by air strikes from a Saudi-led coalition – have been battling the rebels and their allies, leaving civilians caught in the middle.

Aden has been under siege from the rebels pushing south from the capital Sanaa, and has also been shelled by Saudi forces from the sea.

Fighting escalated in the city this week, with reports of overflowing hospitals, hijacked ambulances and bodies left in the streets.

The ICRC – the International Committee of the Red Cross – says it is ready to send two aircraft to Yemen, loaded with medical supplies, but has so far been unable to do so.

On Monday, an aid flight to Yemen was held back because of logistical problems.

The World Health Organisation says more than 540 people have died in the Yemen’s conflict in the last two weeks and nearly 2,000 have been injured.

The UN children’s agency, Unicef, says at least 74 of the dead are children, and more than 100,000 people have been displaced.

“We are seeing a lot of people arriving dead at the hospital or dying in the hospitals,” Mr Ghosen told the BBC’s Today programme.

“The hospitals don’t have the right supplies and the right staff,” he said.

“People are nowhere to be seen, they are hiding. The economy has completely stopped,” he went on, adding the streets were “littered” with rubbish and rubble from damaged buildings.

“[The city] is full of armed people from different groups fighting. This is a big city and nothing is functional,” Mr Ghosen said.

The ICRC has previously called for a 24-hour ceasefire in Aden, while Russia has also urged the UN Security Council to support a “humanitarian pause” in the air strikes.

President Hadi was forced to flee Yemen two weeks ago, as the rebels advanced on Aden.

The Houthis have said their aim is to replace his government, which they accuse of being corrupt.

They are supported by troops loyal to the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in the Arab Spring protests.

Saudi Arabia says the Houthis have military backing from regional rival Iran, which denies the allegation.

 

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