Humanitarian aid workers arrived in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Saturday, after a nearly three-week blockade by the Saudi-led military coalition, an official at the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said.
“First plane landed in Sanaa this morning with humanitarian aid workers,” WFP’s regional spokeswoman Abeer Etefa told Reuters in an e-mail on Saturday.
Officials at Sanaa airport said two other UN flights had arrived on Saturday.
A UN plane carrying desperately needed vaccines landed in Sanaa.
Three other aircraft — two carrying UN aid workers and one carrying International Committee of the Red Cross staff — also landed at the airport, which was repaired earlier this week after a coalition airstrike knocked out its controls, an AFP correspondent reported.
The UN humanitarian affairs office had said Friday that it had been given clearance by the coalition to resume flights into Sanaa.
The UN children’s fund UNICEF said Saturday’s flight was carrying more than 15 tons, or 1.9 million doses, of vaccine for diphtheria, tetanus and other preventable diseases.
The UN humanitarian office said that a ship loaded with wheat and another with equipment to treat Yemen’s cholera epidemic is ready to head to Hodeida.
The coalition fighting the armed Houthi militias in Yemen said on Wednesday it would allow aid in through the Red Sea ports of Hodeida and Salif, as well as UN flights to Sanaa.
International aid groups have welcomed the decision to let humanitarian aid in. About 7 million people face famine in Yemen and their survival depends on international assistance.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition was quoted on Friday as saying that 42 permits have been issued for international aid flights to Sanaa and naval shipments to Hodeida.
The US welcomed the “first step” by Saudi Arabia to allow aid to reach Yemen and called for negotiations on the country’s conflict.
“Full and immediate implementation of the announced measures is a first step in ensuring that food, medicine, and fuel reach the Yemeni people and that the aid organizations on the front lines of mitigating this humanitarian crisis are able to do their essential work,” the White House said in a statement.
“We look forward to additional steps that will facilitate the unfettered flow of humanitarian and commercial goods from all ports of entry to the points of need,” it added.
“The United States continues to believe that this devastating conflict, and the suffering it causes, must be brought to an end through political negotiations,” the White House said.
The US-backed coalition closed air, land and sea access on Nov. 6, in a move it said was to stop the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran.
The action came after Saudi Arabia intercepted a missile fired toward Riyadh.