Save the Children: The Reopening of Sanaa Airport for Medical Flights ‘a Lifeline’ for Thousands of Children

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Feb. 3, 2020)—The reopening today, for the first time in three years, of Sanaa airport for medical flights restores a vital lifeline for thousands of children who are stuck in Yemen without access to lifesaving treatment, Save the Children said, as a plane with seven patients on board took off for Amman, Jordan.

“Almost every day our teams see children who are maimed in this conflict, or who are suffering from diseases that need treatment outside the country,” said Xavier Joubert, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director. For more than three years, they had a death sentence hanging over their heads, as they were unable to get specialist medical support because of the closure of the airport.

“Thousands of children are suffering from diseases such as heart complications and kidney failure. They need to be transported to big hospitals, but there is lack of fuel. They need quality healthcare, but there is a lack of medical supplies and personnel, and hospitals suffer from power outages.”

Up until now, many parents had no choice but to make the long, expensive, and dangerous drive to Aden airport to take their children out of the country for treatment. While the reopening of Sanaa airport is a positive development, the main challenge remains that most Yemenis can’t afford to travel to Sanaa, let alone pay for a plane ticket and medical treatment abroad. That’s why Save the Children is calling all stakeholders to open Sanaa airport to commercial flights as well, so that medicines, medical equipment, and other goods can come into the north of the country by air.

“My little boy needs immediate medical surgery to correct the heart muscles,” said Asma*, the mother of Omar*, 8, who has a heart complication. “This brutal crisis in my country doesn’t have mercy on my child and other children like him who are facing death and cannot enjoy their childhood. The closure of the airport has had an impact on my son’s health because no medication or equipment can get in.

“I feel like my hands are chained and I cannot do anything to save my son… I cannot take him abroad for surgery nor can he handle the road trip to Aden. My son has a right like other children to go to school and enjoy his childhood. Mothers like me cry in pain for their children.”

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, about to enter its sixth year, has made the country a deadly place for children, with over seven million requiring some form of humanitarian assistance. The reopening of the airport is a positive step towards saving lives in Yemen, however only a complete ceasefire across the country, alongside an inclusive political solution, can guarantee the protection of children’s lives.

To learn more about Save the Children’s work in the Yemen and donate to the response visit www.SavetheChildren.org/Yemen.

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons

Notes to Editors

  • Omar* suffers from Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), which is a cardiac anomaly that refers to a combination of four related heart defects that commonly occur together. Surgery is the only effective treatment. 

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