Conjoined twin boys born under blockade in Yemen nearly three weeks ago died on Saturday after attempts to secure a potentially life-saving evacuation failed.
In a statement carried by the Houthi-run Saba news, the health ministry said the twins’ deaths reflected the humanitarian situation Yemen’s children are facing as a result of the war.
The boys’ plight and the flurry of international media it generated has cast the politics of Yemen’s war and their human cost into stark relief.
Abdelkhaleq and Abdelkarim were born in Houthi-controlled Sanaa, at a hospital so woefully underequipped after years of bombardment and blockade by the Saudi-led coalition that doctors could perform an MRI.
The twins’ doctors had begged for them to be evacuated to a hospital equipped to give them life-saving treatment.
“They need to travel immediately. They will not be able to survive in Yemen under the social, political and economic circumstances in this country,” said Dr Faisal al-Balbali, the head of the neonatal unit at al-Thawra hospital in Sanaa.
But Yemen’s airspace is controlled by the Saudi-led coalition and, following Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, no civilian flights have taken off from Sanaa since 2015. The only flights permitted in and out are those operated by the United Nations.
Despite offers from a Saudi organisation, the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Works, to provide the needed medical care, no way around the blockade was found.
Yemen’s nearly four-year war has seen the country brought to the brink of starvation, its infrastructure destroyed, as Iran-backed Houthi rebels battle the Saudi-led coalition which aims to restore the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was ousted by the Houthis in 2014.
UN-led peace talks re-started in December 2018 and aim to implement a ceasefire and military withdrawal in Red Sea port city Hodeidah, and to reopen Sanaa airport.