Sep 4, 2019

UPDATE: CARE's Support of Refugees in Syria

Three years of restrictions imposed on Yemen’s airspace by the Saudi-led coalition is preventing thousands of sick Yemeni civilians from seeking urgent medical treatment outside the country, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and CARE said today.

Sana’a airport has been closed to commercial flights since August 9, 2016. In the three years since, as many as 32,000 people may have died prematurely because they were unable to travel abroad for treatment, according to the Ministry of Health in Sana’a.

NRC and CARE International have called repeatedly on the Saudi-led coalition to lift the restrictions on Yemen’s airspace, and to allow medical supplies to be imported and patients in need of treatment to leave from Sana’a airport.

“As if bullets, bombs and cholera did not kill enough people, the airport closure is condemning thousands more to a premature death,” said Mohammed Abdi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Country Director in Yemen. “There is no justification for preventing very sick civilians from leaving the country to get life-saving medical treatment.

Four years of war has decimated Yemen’s already-fragile health system. Less than half the health facilities in Yemen are fully operational. Much of the country’s medical equipment including in the capital Sana’a is obsolete and urgently needs to be replaced, according to the Ministry of Health in Sana’a. An almost complete halt to commercial shipments and medicines through the airport, coupled with the restrictions on imports through Hodeidah port has caused prices to more than double, making essential medicines unaffordable for most of the population.

Restrictions on Yemen’s airspace make it harder for people with chronic diseases to seek life-saving medical treatment outside the country. The Ministry of Health in Sana’a reports that before the war, around 7,000 Yemenis were travelling abroad from Sana’a International Airport each year for medical treatment not available in Yemen, including for heart, kidney and liver disease, blood conditions, cancer and other long term health conditions.

The closure of Sana’a airport, means the only option for those in the capital and north of the country who need medical treatment abroad is to travel by road to Aden or Seiyun in the South and take a plane from there, an arduous route that can take 15 to 24 hours and involves crossing check points, and conflict frontlines. In addition to the cost and strain of the journey, some also choose not to make the journey because of fear of arrest and retribution when they cross from territory controlled by one party to another.

Qassem, a 47-year-old teacher and father of six, told NRC in January that he had suffered from a liver disease for 13 years and needed medical treatment abroad, but the closure of Sanaa airport made that impossible:

“Travelling outside Yemen is impossible as long as the closest airport to us remains closed. Even an eight-hour trip is very difficult in my case, as fluid will start building in my stomach and legs. It is difficult to travel to Aden and do the pre-travel procedure [obtaining passports, visas, medical reports, and travel authorization]. I wish they would open the airport so anyone who can pay the expenses is able to travel and seek treatment outside.”

Sadly, Qassem lost his battle with the disease and died on June 19.

Under UN Security Council Resolution 2451, warring parties are urged to work with the UN Special Envoy to reopen the safe and secure operation of Sana’a airport for commercial flights but there has been a lack of progress to date.

NRC and CARE called on warring parties to come to an agreement to reopen Sana’a airport for commercial flights, and its allies UK, US, and France to apply pressure on both sides to end their political wrangling over the airport to alleviate humanitarian suffering caused by the closure.

The closure of Sana'a airport is another example of the way blockade and restrictions on humanitarian goods, commercial imports of food, fuel and medicines, and closure of key land, air and sea routes in Yemen are exacerbating the humanitarian situation and leading to intolerable suffering.

“People are dying because they cannot do the simplest of things, which is fly from their own airport,” said Johan Mooij, Country Director for CARE International in Yemen. “The continued closure of Sana’a airport has become a symbol of a country that is not functioning for its own people. Millions in Yemen are suffering from a lack of access to things that we in most other countries take absolutely for granted. This must end, and all ports – land, air and sea – must be kept open.”

  • NRC has spokespeople in Yemen and Oslo available for interview.
  • CARE has available spokespeople in Yemen, Jordan and Germany.
  • Photos for free use are available here.
  • B-roll video from people affected by the closure of Sana’a Airport available here.


Jun 7, 2019

UPDATE: Two CARE Facilities Out of Service in Syria


Violence and Destruction Leaves Two CARE-Supported Healthcare Facilities Out of Service in Syria

Amman, 30 May 2019 – The spike in violence in northwest Syria has forced CARE International to suspend some of its aid provision, including at healthcare facilities and community centers for women and girls. Two CARE-supported basic obstetric health facilities, that serve some 180 women on a daily basis, each sustained damage for the second time this month, rendering them both inoperable, when a missile struck 10 meters away from the first health center on Tuesday another missile landed 50 meters away from the second on Thursday.

“The last five weeks have been characterized by indiscriminate bombing on civilians and civilian infrastructure in northwest Syria. Our healthcare facilities have been damaged and suspended due to the hostilities, affecting hundreds of women, who are in dire need of basic maternal healthcare. All parties to the conflict are legally bound to comply with International Humanitarian Law. We call on them to spare hospitals and healthcare centers, as they are fundamentally and legally obliged,” said Aleksandar Milutinovic, CARE’s Syria Country Director.

Three CARE-supported reproductive health facilities and another two community centers for women and girls have been affected in southern Idlib and Aleppo governorates. The five facilities served an average of 8,500 women per month. They are part of the United Nations Humanitarian Deconfliction Mechanism, which informs the Coalition Forces, the Republic of Turkey and the Russian Federation’s military forces of humanitarian static locations and humanitarian movements to mitigate the risks of being targeted or hit by an airstrike.

“The shelling has concentrated on service centers such as bakeries, health centers, educational facilities and places of worship, as well as residential areas. Many of these have stopped operating completely or partially, because of the risk of shelling. This has led to increased displacement, without the availability of shelters. People are sheltering under olive trees, in the open or on roads,” said Jamal, who works for CARE International in Idlib.

According to the UN, heavy shelling and aerial bombardment have resulted in the confirmed deaths of more than 160 civilians and the displacement of some 270,000 people in May. A total of 21 attacks on healthcare facilities have been reported by the World Health Organization, since April 28th. Fear of being attacked has led to at least 50 health facilities, including the 21 attacked, to either partially or totally suspend services. Some 25 schools are reported to have also been impacted by the violence, as well as markets and at least three sites for displaced people.

“We are witnessing villages become empty of their residents. Our Syrian partner organizations do not have the capacity to scale up at the current rate of displacement. The response is stretched. These humanitarian workers are civilians with families and children. They have also become displaced, resulting in further disruption to the aid response. Civilians must be protected to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe from unfolding right before us,” adds Milutinovic.

Rana, 29, is the Director of a CARE-supported center for women in Idlib, run by its partner Syrian organization, Women Now. “My husband left with our 18-month-old daughter and I have not seen them for a week. I stayed here with my 8-month-old son because of my job. I am packing some basic items for us to leave this area when the airplanes and shelling stop. There is no safe place left in Idlib. Most people are dying in their houses.”

Since 3 May 2019, CARE has reached over 70,000 individuals in northwest Syria, with clean drinking water, food rations, mobile health clinics, psychosocial support activities, personal hygiene items, cash assistance, shelter rehabilitation and makeshift shelter items, including plastic sheets, mattresses and blankets. As the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate, CARE and the organisations it partners with in Syria will be scaling up the humanitarian response further in the coming weeks. CARE will continue to monitor the situation and work with its local partner organisations to ensure that the aid response is timely and coordinated.


Jun 7, 2019

UPDATE: 'Terrifying Storm of Bombs' in Yemen Kills Family


SANAA (May 16, 2019) – Hours after the UN Security Council heralded the success of the handover of Hodeidah port as a vital step in the peace process, intensive airstrikes launched on Sana’a this morning have shattered any glimmer of hope for peace in the near future

“We woke this morning to a terrifying storm of bombs in Sana'a, one of which fell not far from our house rattling the windows and floors,” says CARE’s Alexandra Hilliard in Sana’a. “We could see smoke rising from the mountains across the city. We heard later that almost an entire family was killed in a residential area. It’s tragic to think that this family who went to sleep last night will never wake up again."

Thursday morning saw 19 airstrikes on Sana’a, leaving an estimated seven people dead – including four children – and 58 injured, including women. There have been 20,000 airstrikes in Yemen since the conflict escalated in March 2015. According to the UN, well over 200,000 people have been killed by fighting, malnutrition, disease and lack of basic services due to the war. A child dies every twelve minutes.

“As airstrikes, landmines and ground fighting continue to kill innocent people across Yemen, the peace process appears increasingly fragile,” says Hilliard. “CARE urges all parties to the conflict to consider the enormous toll faced by the women, men, and children of Yemen. That this has happened during Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar, makes these attacks all the more horrifying.”

CARE has worked in Yemen since 1992 and is one of few international aid agencies continuing to deliver humanitarian services in Yemen. CARE staff are working tirelessly to ensure that people in the hardest-hit and most hard-to-reach areas have access to emergency supplies to help them meet their basic needs.


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