The power struggle between Iran and Saudi Arabia is causing a major human catastrophe in the Middle East after reports emerged that hundreds of Yemenis “will die within the next week” unless Saudi Arabia lifts its blockade and allows urgently needed medical supplies into the country.
Yemen has become the “burden bearer” of the feud between the two Middle Eastern superpowers, with pharmacies across Sanaa struggling with a critical shortage of specialist drugs used to treat illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and renal failure.
A doctor at Sanaa’s al-Mutawkil hospital told Al Jazeera that they are running “dangerously low” on medical supplies and won’t have anywhere near the necessary vials of pain-relief medication, insulin, and other specialist medicines for our patients.
“Unless Saudi Arabia eases its restrictions and allows food and medical supplies, I could end up losing all of my cancer patients – even those suffering from diabetes – [a treatable disease] will die. Hundreds will perish in the next week alone,” he said.
Saudi Arabia, which has been at war with Yemen since 2015, tightened its air, land and sea blockade of the country on Sunday, after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile towards the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
The kingdom has defended the blockade, which bars aid groups like Doctors without Borders, Oxfam and UN agencies from delivering aid, claiming it is aimed at preventing weapons being smuggled into Yemen by its regional rival, Iran.