A World Food Programme ship is docked in Aden. Hundreds of trucks transporting vital medicines, tents and food heading to Al Houthi-held areas have been seized by the militia and the goods sold on the black market, Yemen’s government said. Image Credit: AP

Al Mukalla: The internationally supported Yemeni government has said Al Houthi rebels have intercepted 63 ships and 223 convoys carrying humanitarian aid to areas under their control since ejecting President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi from Sana’a in early 2015.

In a statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency on Friday, Abdul Rageeb Fateh, the minister of local administration and head of supreme relief committee, said rebels seize relief ships immediately after docking at Hodeida and Saleef seaports and supply goods to their fighters battling government forces across Yemen.

Fateh also said hundreds of trucks transporting vital medicines, tents and food heading to rebel-held territories have also been seized by Al Houthis and goods sold in the black market.

The minister accused Al Houthis of abducting 30 aid workers from areas under their control, including several Norwegian Refugee Council staff, in the Red Sea city of Hodeida. He said Al Houthi supporters in Taiz’s Khader district abducted seven aid workers. He said harassment of aid workers and interception of humanitarian convoys by Al Houthis is causing famine in areas under their control. He said humanitarian situation would deteriorate if rebels continued confiscating aid convoys.

Looming disaster

The impact of Al Houthis’ seizure of aid convoys can be seen in Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, where local aid organisations and health officials say the population of the city is facing starvation. Ameen Al Haydari, the executive director of humanitarian relief coalition, an alliance that includes major NGOs and independent activists, told Gulf News on Saturday that tens of thousands of people, including women and children, are paying a heavy price for Al Houthis’ two-year-long siege of the city. “They have seized many aid trucks that passed their checkpoints. Sometime we send mediators to convince them to release the trucks.”

Al Haydari said vital food staples are scarce and expensive as local merchants use the dangerous mountain routes to bringing in their goods to the city.

Taiz has become the scene of bloodiest clashes between government forces and Iran-backed Al Houthis that killed hundreds of people and injured thousands others, according to local and international right groups.

After failing to take control of the city’s downtown, Al Houthis imposed a siege on Taiz, banning people from leaving or entering areas under their control. Al Haydari said a young man suffering from severe malnutrition died last week because of shortage of medicines in a local hospital. Last year, government forces partially broke Al Houthi siege after taking control of the western entrance of the city and secured a road that connects Taiz city to the port.

Local aid workers said international organisations refused to use the liberated road and continued to send aid convoys from Sana’a through Al Houthi-manned checkpoints.

“International NGOs tell us they can send aid to Taiz from Sana’a where they are based. Their offices in Aden are responsible for distributing aid to Aden, Abyan and Lahj,” Faris Al Arasi, a local health official, told Gulf News. Al Houthis intercept convoys when they arrive in their areas in Taiz and inform international organisations in Sana’a that the aid reached the city, Al Arasi said. He warned the remaining functioning hospitals in Taiz will close down due to shortage of medicines and medical staff.