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ICRC delivers urgently needed humanitarian aid to Yemen city of Taiz

As the civil war in Yemen grinds on, the humanitarian crisis there is rapidly deteriorating. The United Nations says half of the country's 14.4 million people are threatened by famine.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) made its first delivery of medical supplies in six months to the war-torn Yemeni city of Taiz on Saturday.

The ICRC team delivered surgical items, intravenous fluids and anesthetic supplies to help treat hundreds of wounded people.

The head of the ICRC delegation to Yemen, Antoine Grand, said the delivery represented a turning point in the struggle to deliver aid to the embattled city.

"This is a breakthrough and we hope that today's operation will be followed by many more to come," Grand said in a statement.

"Essential medicines and supplies for pregnant women were also provided," he said. "All of these items are in high demand by the hospitals in Taiz that continue to receive a daily influx of wounded people."

The civil war in Yemen between Houthi rebels backed by Shiite Iran and the Sunni government backed by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states has been overshadowed by the larger conflict in Syria, but it has quickly become one of the world's biggest humanitarian crises.

Famine looms

The UN says half of the country's 14.4 million people are threatened by famine.

In Taiz, living conditions for civilians are steadily deteriorating as residents face a constant struggle to obtain water, food and medical care, according to the ICRC.

The city of 200,000, in the southwest of the country, was seized by Houthi rebels in the early days of the civil war last March, but unlike the capital, Sanaa, which fell indisputably into rebel hands, Taiz has become an ongoing battleground.

Jemen Taiz Pro-Regierungsmilizen Aufbau Kanone

Pro-government fighters transport a cannon in parts to Taiz

After the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile, a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states joined forces to fight the insurgents, reclaiming the port city of Aden, where Hadi established a new capital.

The Saudi-led coalition has launched hundreds of airstrikes, sent in ground troops and set up a naval blockade to restrict goods reaching Yemen.

Watch video 01:14

Second MSF clinic attacked

The conflict is driven in part by growing sectarian hostilities between Sunni Arabs and Shia Iran.

The World Health Organization said this week that it had delivered more than 20 tons of medical supplies to Taiz - in its first aid delivery into the city in almost two months.

And Doctors Without Borders said that shortly after the New Year, it had made the NGO's first "significant" delivery of medical supplies to hospitals in Taiz since August.

bik/jlw (Reuters, AFP)

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