UNICEF expresses concern over aid distribution in Yemen's Sanaa as the first ship of flour arrived at the country's Hodeidah port after a more than two-week Saudi blockade was lifted.

A malnourished Yemeni child receives treatment at a hospital in the capital Sanaa on November 22, 2017.
A malnourished Yemeni child receives treatment at a hospital in the capital Sanaa on November 22, 2017. (AFP)

A ship carrying 5,500 tonnes of flour docked in Yemen's Hodeidah port in the Red Sea on Sunday, the first after more than two weeks of a blockade by a Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi movement, local officials said.

Saudi Arabia and its allies closed air, land and sea access to the Arabian Peninsula country on November 6, to stop what it calls a flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran. The action came after Saudi Arabia intercepted a missile fired towards its capital Riyadh.

"The ship is 106 metres long and carries 5,500 tonnes of flour," one of the Yemeni officials said.

TRT World's Staci Bivens explains why more needs to be done in the war-torn country.

The charity Save the Children said an estimated 20,000 Yemeni children under the age of five were joining the ranks of the severely malnourished every month, "an average of 27 children every hour". 

The delivery is the first aid to arrive through Hodeidah port, controlled by the Houthis, after the coalition allowed a flight carrying humanitarian aid workers to the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Saturday.

Abeer Etefa, a spokesperson for the World Food Programme for the Middle East and North Africa region, said some 25,000 tons of wheat will be offloaded early on Monday.

She said "strong winds" were preventing the offloading from taking place on Sunday.

Aid agencies said the blockade had worsened the humanitarian crisis in Yemen where the war has left an estimated 7 million people facing famine and killed more than 10,000 people.

The coalition gave clearance for UN flights in and out of Sanaa from Amman on Saturday, involving the regular rotation of aid workers.

'More supplies needed'

After re-opening Sanaa airport, UNICEF has also sent vaccines there. 

An aircraft carrying 1.9 million doses of vaccines landed in Yemen's Sanaa airport on Saturday.

But UNICEF says many supplies are yet to reach the children, and there aren't enough to go around.

"It is a very tiny step, it may sound huge - 1.9 million doses of vaccine, but there are many more millions of vaccines needed, if we want to prevent that there will be a break in the routine immunisation in the country, there are many more supplies needed," said UNICEF's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere.

The vaccines, which are expected to reach 600,000 children, aim at immunising children against diseases including diphtheria, tuberculosis and meningitis.

More than 20 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian aid.

Tension has been fierce since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the war between forces loyal to President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthis in 2015.

Iran has denied supplying the Houthis with weapons.

Source: Reuters