NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 10 – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in the process of evacuating Kenyans from conflict torn Yemen.
A statement sent to newsrooms by ministry officials states that the government has already engaged the governments of India and China, who have vessels in the area, to help transport the Kenyans to Djibouti.
“The Chinese and Indian naval vessels are currently in the region evacuating not only their nationals but also those of friendly countries that have requested them to do so. A number of Kenyans have managed to utilise this arrangement,” the statement reads.
They have therefore advised those close to the Saudi Arabia border to make their way to Jeddah and those close to the Oman border to make their way to Muscat so that they can access the vessels.
“Many Governments have evacuated their nationals and Saudi Arabian government has offered to assist nationals of friendly countries safe passage through the Kingdom,” the Ministry says.
It says it also plans to airlift some 150 Kenyans stranded in Sanaa, “which is in the hinterland and therefore cannot be accessed via sea,” out of the country.
So far, the Ministry states, its embassies in Saudi Arabia and Oman have facilitated the safe return of 60 Kenyans.
“Our embassies in Saudi Arabia, Oman as well as the ministry headquarters have receive distressed calls from Kenyans requesting the government to evacuate them,” they explained on Friday.
The ministry’s outline of its plan to ensure the safe return of Kenyans stranded in Yemen came as the United Nations called Friday for an immediate “humanitarian pause” of at least a few hours each day in Yemen to allow desperately needed aid to enter the conflict-ravaged country.
The Red Cross and UN’s children agency finally managed Friday to get two planeloads of medical aid into the country – the first to reach Sanaa since Saudi-led air strikes against Shiite rebels began last month.
Doctors Without Borders also managed to get a boatload of aid to Aden earlier this week.
But Johannes Van Der Klaauw, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, insisted that the aid that got through was far from enough.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva, he called for and “immediate humanitarian pause in this conflict.”
“We need many more of these flights coming in, many more of these boats coming in,” he said, stressing that the airspace over Sanaa needed to be cleared for “a few hours at least” each day to allow the aid to get in.
The UN is trying to negotiate with all the sides in the conflict to ensure safe access, he said.
Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels have seized swathes of territory in Yemen since they entered Sanaa last September, forcing the government to flee.
Yemen has slid deeper into turmoil after a Saudi-led air campaign began on March 26 to push back the rebels’ advance after they forced President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee the country.
The World Health Organization said nearly 650 people have died and more than 2,000 have been injured in the fighting in Yemen, the actual numbers are likely far higher since many people are not reaching hospitals but are being buried immediately, Van Der Klaauw said.
He insisted on the importance of opening “a window of opportunity” to bring aid to civilians amid fears of a mounting humanitarian crisis.
Even before the latest escalation, some 16 million Yemenis were in need of humanitarian assistance and nearly half of all Yemeni children were considered chronically malnourished.
“This was already one of the largest and most complex humanitarian emergencies in the world,” Van Der Klaauw said, pointing out that the violence risks leading to severe food shortages.
Shortages of fuel also means water pumps will soon stop working, and Van Der Klaauw warned that in Aden alone, “one million people risk being cut off from access to clean drinking water within a matter of days.”
“The situation in Aden is extremely, extremely preoccupying if not catastrophic,” he said, warning that Yemen’s second largest city had fallen prey to “urban warfare” and “uncontrollable militias.”