8.6 million in Yemen need urgent care, says WHO chief

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Margaret Chan, Director General WHO, said “vastly insufficient” medicines had reached Yemen during a recent ceasefire. Photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Millions of people's lives are at risk in Yemen as fighting continues unabated, the head of the UN's health agency warned Wednesday.

With conflict in the Arabian peninsula country responsible for nearly 2,000 fatalities, the World Health Organization's Margaret Chan said people are also dying because hospitals lack fuel and basic medicines for diabetes and hypertension.

Violations of international humanitarian law need to stop, including the targeting of health facilities, staff and patients, Dr Chan said in a statement.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Amid a recent upsurge in fighting in Yemen, Dr Chan appealed for an end to what she called the "unnecessary loss of innocent lives".

The WHO Director-General said that civilians continue to pay the highest price for the conflict between government-backed and Houthi forces.

Some 2,000 people have died since late March and 8,000 have been injured by the fighting, including hundreds of women and children.

In her statement, Dr Chan said "vastly insufficient" medicines had been brought into Yemen during the five-day ceasefire earlier this month – enough for just 400,000 people.

But 8.6 million people need urgent medical care.

The WHO chief added that hospitals around the country have had to close key operating units owing to fuel and staff shortages, while medicines for chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer are no longer available.

Dr Chan also warned against continuing attacks on medical facilities including hospitals, ambulances and a blood transfusion centre which had left health workers dead.

The WHO appeal follows the postponement of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'07"

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