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World

Aid Workers Face Challenges In Yemen As Humanitarian Crisis Continues

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The U.N. Security Council called for an end to the violence in Yemen today. It imposed an arms embargo and asset freeze on Houthi rebel leaders to try to stop the fighting. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis continues. More than 600 people have reportedly been killed, and thousands more have been wounded. The group Doctors Without Borders has been trying to get medical supplies into the country, but finding open routes remains difficult. Earlier I spoke with Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, the head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Yemen. She said the situation is bad both in the port city of Aden in the South and in the capital, Sana'a.

MARIE-ELISABETH INGRES: It's difficult to have a good understanding and to have precise figures on the casualties. What I can tell you because the daily life which start to be affected by the current situation - we start to have a big shortage of fuel, so you can see kilometers of cars waiting for the fuel. We start to have some shortage - for example, of flour - and the prices of the food, they increase. And it's not only in Sana'a. You know we have an hospital in Aden, and we are very concerned by the humanitarian situation in Aden. The problem is that the fighting has increased a lot, and now we have some fights in the streets - some snipers, so it is very difficult to move in the street. The injured people, they cannot reach our hospital. And so we try to manage to find a solution to support some health units in some places. But, as you understand, it's not easy because it's difficult to move.

CORNISH: I want to ask you more about that. There have been reports of humanitarian workers - medical workers, specifically, killed by rooftop snipers in the southern city of Aden. Can you describe what kind of security risks you're facing?

INGRES: One week ago, seven ambulances have been hijacked by different groups in present...

CORNISH: So seven ambulances.

INGRES: Seven ambulances from the minister of health. And two health worker from the red Christians have been killed during this hijacking. And so we did a big communication in social media and bilaterally with the different groups to say, stop to attack the ambulances. Stop to attack the health worker. Respect the medical mission. Don't enter with guns in the hospitals because we will not be able to treat your injure people because we treat everybody from each side. What I try to explain is they're so bad to - we need to reach the injured people in some places and the fire. So (unintelligible) respect to a law - to go to these places, to take the injured people because the people - they are not able to take their bodies - the dead bodies in the streets so we try to manage like this. It's not easy.

CORNISH: In terms of the conditions in the hospitals, do you have the supplies that you need? Things like infrastructure, electricity - how is that?

INGRES: For the moment, we are OK. We can manage, but it's not the case for the population of Aden or in Sana'a, for example. They have shortage of electricity, for example in Sana'a since 24 hours. In Aden they are regular shortage of electricity, of water, of fuel and even the shops start to be close, so even for the food it should become difficult.

CORNISH: Can you describe what daily life is like for those in Yemen who are caught between the crossfire here?

INGRES: I can describe you the situation for our staff in Aden because it is very difficult for them. Each morning there is a challenge (unintelligible) not to come to a hospital because of the fights during the night - because of the roads, if (unintelligible). And sometimes we have many staff - around 50 people who are sleeping in our hospital because it's not possible to move. And, you know, some of them - they live tragical situations. Some of them, they lost relatives - some of them, their houses were destroyed. Some of them, they wanted to put their family in such place, but it was impossible. So it is very difficult for the Yemeni people in this moment.

CORNISH: Marie-Elisabeth Ingres. She's head of the Doctors Without Borders mission in Yemen. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

INGRES: Thank you. You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.