GENEVA (Reuters) - Nearly 100 civilians have been killed in the past two weeks in Yemen’s southwestern city of Taiz where a collapsing health care service and outbreak of dengue fever are compounding a dire humanitarian situation, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
Yemen’s third-largest city has become the latest frontline in a five-month war between northern Houthi militiamen and supporters of Yemen’s exiled government, which is backed by the West and Saudi Arabia.
The toll of 95 includes 53 civilians who died in Saudi-led air strikes on Taiz on Aug 21 that also hit 20 homes. The remainder were killed by suspected Houthi-affiliated snipers and shelling, U.N. human rights spokeswoman Cecile Pouilly told a news briefing.
Saudi Arabia in March launched a military offensive against the Tehran-allied Houthis, suspecting Shi‘ite power Iran of trying to gain a foothold in the Arabian peninsula.
“We are alarmed by the steep increase in the number of civil casualties in Taiz in recent weeks,” Pouilly said.
An “untenable” humanitarian situation was being made worse by Houthi-linked fighters blocking supply routes into Taiz city, she said.
“We are also concerned about the near collapse of the health care system in Taiz where all six public hospitals are no longer operational due to the fighting,” she said.
Attacks by the Saudi-led coalition on Hodeidah port, a key entry point for aid supplies and commercial imports for Yemen, are complicating relief efforts, Pouilly added.
Cases in Taiz of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne viral disease that can be fatal, soared from 145 in mid-August to 421 as of Aug 25, the World Health Organization said.
The WHO has sent life-saving medicines to Taiz, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said. The agency called last week for a ceasefire and humanitarian corridor to allow access to 3.2 million people in Taiz deemed at risk from fighting and disease.
“The risk of other communicable diseases like cholera also remains high especially given the poor water and sanitation conditions during this period,” he added.
Since the conflict escalated in Yemen on 26th March, U.N. monitors have documented 6,631 civilian casualties, including 2,112 deaths.
Pouilly said the true figures could be much higher.
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky