Yemen Health Ministry: Closure of Sanaa Airport Likely Killed 10,000

Saudi Blockade Has Prevented Aid Shipments, Evacuation of Patients

The Saudi war in Yemen has killed a lot of civilians in a lot of different ways. Airstrikes, food shortages, and a massive cholera epidemic have been the big, well-documented problems. The closure of the Sanaa Airport hasn’t gotten nearly so much attention by comparison.

But it should. While the Saudis were blockading the Yemeni coast, keeping humanitarian aid out, they’ve also ensured the Sanaa Airport is all but unusable, preventing aid shipments to the capital, and preventing the evacuation of the sick and wounded for treatment.

Yemen’s Health Ministry has estimated that over 10,000 civilians have died in the past year simply because that airport isn’t open, and a growing number of aid groups are pushing hard for some way of reopening it.

Even the UN can’t get to the airport reliably, because the naval blockade is preventing shipments of fuel to refuel the planes and allow them to get back out again. To the extent the airport was open before that, it was very limited, and early in the war, the Saudis bombed the airport to prevent an aid plane from Iran from landing.

Aid groups say the lack of travel is a growing problem, and it likely will be increasingly so because of the cholera epidemic. Getting out of the country to seek treatment means 10-20 hour drives to coast or to a smaller airport, and usually means a dangerous trip through active war zones.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of