Several aid groups in the Yemeni city of Hodeida helped evacuate the major port town ahead of a government offensive.
The civil war in Yemen that began March 2015 between Shiite Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed government troops has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million others. Security officials on Monday said heightened fighting killed more than 600 people in recent days as government forces closed in on Hodeida.
Oxfam International in a statement confirmed nonprofits and the UN received warnings over the weekend to evacuate Hodeida by Tuesday.
“It’s hard to imagine how life for the people of Yemen could get any more difficult, but an attack on Hodeida will bring more death, destruction, and push vital resources like food, fuel, and medicine even further out of reach,” said Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen country director.
Mark Lowcock, UN humanitarian chief, said 90 percent of food, fuel, and medicine in Yemen are imported, with 70 percent coming through Hodeida. The United Nations warned that as many as 250,000 civilians could die in the city if the Yemeni forces staged an attack or siege.
Last week, the International Committee for the Red Cross said it pulled out 71 of its staff members from Yemen following persisting direct attacks. The aid group said its “current activities have been blocked, threatened, and directly targeted in recent weeks, and we see a vigorous attempt to instrumentalize our organization as a pawn in the conflict.” Doctors Without Borders also temporarily suspended its activities in the northern Hajja province after an attack on a cholera treatment center. —Onize Ohikere