At least seven critically ill people in need of medical care and their relatives have been flown out from Yemen’s rebel-held capital, Sanaa, on Monday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
The WHO said on Twitter that the majority of the patients are women and children who suffer from conditions such as “aggressive forms of cancer and brain tumours, or who need organ transplants and reconstructive surgeries”.
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The young patients flew out of Sanaa airport, which has been closed to commercial flights since 2016, aboard a UN-marked plane bound for Amman.
“This is the first of what we hope will be a number of flights in the medical air bridge,” UN Resident Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande told AFP news agency, adding that more patients and their families would travel to Jordan and Egypt in coming days.
“It’s crucially important that this first flight has gone,” she said of the evacuation programme which took months to negotiate.
“All of us feel today that this is a major breakthrough and an indication of hope out of Yemen.”
Fifteen-year-old Abdallah Abed was one of 16 patients to be flown out on the first flight to Amman.
“I have kidney failure and I need a transplant,” he said. “God willing we travel today to Jordan for treatment.”
Yemen has been mired in almost five years of conflict since Houthi rebels overthrew the internationally-recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from Sanaa in late 2014. A Saudi-UAE-led military coalition intervened in 2015 to try to restore Hadi.
In November, the coalition – which controls Yemen’s airspace – said patients needing medical care would be allowed to be flown out of Sanaa, which has been closed to commercial flights since 2016.