Yemeni government officials have strongly rebuked the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) for holding up a medical aid shipment sent by the World Health Organisation at al-Hodeidah port.
The medical aid has been held up at the Red Sea port, which is under the control of the Houthis, for more than a month, said Minister of Local Administration Abdel Raqib Fatah, who chairs the government's Higher Relief Committee.
The failure to release aid "is a humanitarian crime aimed at compounding the suffering of the Yemeni people, especially under the coronavirus pandemic", he said in a statement carried by local media outlets.
"The Houthis have been detaining the containers in al-Hodeidah port for more than one month and refusing to release them," he said.
The shipment is packed into around 1,000 containers, he said, and includes medical equipment and supplies needed for combating the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Yemen.
The Houthis are angling to seize control of this shipment, he added, by trying to insist that affiliated companies serve as contractors, to transport the aid and equipment to where it needs to go.
In this way, they can "direct it towards their supporters", he said.
Fatah urged the humanitarian affairs co-ordinator to intervene and pressure the Houthis to release the aid and distribute it throughout the country.
"The Houthis will be held accountable for any damage to that aid, especially as the Yemeni people in all provinces are in desperate need for more food and health support," he said.
Lives lost without medical aid
Yemen's supreme emergency committee for combatting COVID-19 on Wednesday (June 17th) announced there were 902 coronavirus cases in government-controlled provinces, including 244 deaths.
The Houthis have yet to release the number of coronavirus infections in areas under their control, although a Houthi official has admitted that the pandemic has spread in Sanaa and other areas under the militia's control.
"All Yemenis condemn the actions of the Houthis and their detention of medical aid," said Deputy Minister of Health Abdul-Raqeeb al-Haidari.
"The medical aid would have been a major source of supplies for hospitals, to protect health workers and rescue thousands of patients from COVID-19 and other epidemics," he told Al-Mashareq.
"COVID-19 does not differentiate between its victims, and the first victims are the health workers, including doctors and nurses," said Dr. Moetaz al-Maqtery, a member of the Union of Yemeni Doctors.
"The availability of such aid would have helped protect the health workers and rescue patients," he told Al-Mashareq.
"Any delay in the delivery of this aid means the death of dozens of patients and health workers, and therefore, these criminal acts are condemned," he said.