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    A soldier walks at Red Sea port of Hodeidah, Yemen May 10, 2017

    WHO Urges Yemeni Conflict Parties to Ensure Operation of Hodeidah Port

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    GENEVA (Sputnik) - World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on Saturday on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to facilitate the continuous operation of the port in the city of Al Hodeidah after the country's authorities, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, launched an offensive on the rebel-held city.

    On Wednesday, the government of the Middle Eastern country, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, launched an offensive to seize Al Hodeidah from the rebel Houthi movement after the latter failed to respond to the government's offer to withdraw from the port city in order to peacefully resolve the conflict. Various international organizations and rights groups have called on the Yemeni warring parties to exercise restraint amid increasing hostilities in the city.

    "We stand with our UN partners to call on all parties to the conflict to protect the port, and allow its uninterrupted functioning. We also call on all parties to protect health workers and their facilities from harm, as well as to ensure unimpeded access for medical teams seeking to treat the wounded," Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

    The Director General of WHO stressed that the port of Al Hodeidah was the essential lifeline for the country, through which up to 70 percent of food and basic medicines pass.

    "With the intensification of fighting around Hodeida, I am deeply concerned about the impact it will have on the lives, health and welfare of the 1.6 million people living in the city and its environs, and on the people of Yemen more broadly," WHO chief added.

    Earlier in the month, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs spokesperson Jens Laerke said that the offensive on Al Hodeidah and its long siege could lead to serious humanitarian problems for 250,000 people, including their deaths.

    According to supporters of the Yemeni government and the Arab coalition, Al Hodeidah is the main source of arms supplies to the Houthis. The nearby Bab-el-Mandeb Strait is also one of the world's most important shipping routes.

    Yemen has been engulfed in an armed strife between the government headed by President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi movement since 2015. The Saudi-led coalition of mostly Persian Gulf nations has been carrying out airstrikes against the Houthis at Hadi's request since March 2015.

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    Tags:
    World Health Organization (WHO), Hodeidah, Yemen, Saudi Arabia
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