U.N. Preparing Vast Aid Operation in Yemen

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United Nations agencies are preparing a massive humanitarian aid operation in Yemen as soon as a planned ceasefire in the conflict-torn country takes effect later Tuesday.

Several U.N. agencies said they aimed to take advantage of the expected calm to get desperately needed supplies into Yemen and also to distribute the aid already in the country to places long out of reach due to the violence. 

The announcement came as Saudi-led warplanes carried out a second day of strikes Tuesday on an arms depot in the rebel-held Yemeni capital Sanaa, just hours before the five-day ceasefire was scheduled to take effect at 2000 GMT.

The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said the agency was "ready to provide emergency food rations to over 750,000 people in conflict-hit areas of Yemen during the pause."

The agency also planned to preposition special food products for 25,000 malnourished young children in Yemen, which has among the highest child malnutrition rates in the world.

Even before the last bout of violence began in late March, around half of children under five in the country were stunted due to malnutrition.

The U.N. agency, which provided food aid to 1.1 million people in Yemen last month, warned on April 30 a severe fuel shortage was forcing it to halt its food distribution programme in Yemen.

On Saturday, a ship carrying 250,000 litres (about 66,000 gallons) of fuel reached the Yemeni port of Hodeida, and another vessel carrying 120,000 litres is in international waters near the port, awaiting clearance to dock, Byrs said. 

This is still a far cry from the around one million litres of fuel WFP said it needs each month to carry out aid operations in Yemen, where some 12 million people are considered to not have consistent access to adequate food.


- 828 civilians killed - 

U.N. refugee agency spokesman Adrian Edwards meanwhile said "a huge airlift of humanitarian aid" would go to Sanaa "over the next days if today's ceasefire comes into effect and holds."

There is a desperate need for aid in Yemen, where the U.N. says 828 civilians have been killed, including 182 children and 91 women, since a Saudi Arabia-led coalition launched its air strikes campaign against Iran-backed Huthi rebels on March 26.

At least 182 civilians were killed between May 4-10 alone, and most of the deaths were reportedly caused by airstrikes, the U.N. human rights office said.

UNHCR said more than 300,000 people have become displaced inside the country since the airstrikes began, and the International Organization for Migration said another 14,500 people have fled Yemen mainly by boat since mid-March to Djibouti and Somalia.

Edwards told reporters the plan was to send three flights carrying aid from UNHCR stockpiles in Dubai, including 300 tonnes of sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets and plastic sheeting.

This was part of a larger push to reach some 250,000 people.

"Hundreds of thousands of people across Yemen are struggling to meet their basic needs and are in desperate need of help," Edwards said.

The World Health Organization meanwhile said it would also "scale up its activities if the pause takes place."

Spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said there were 11 metric tonnes of medical kits already in Yemen, which would be moved to field locations across the country, something that had not been done earlier "due to the insecurity."

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