Yemen: scores of civilians killed by Houthi shells in Taiz

Houthi shells targeting residential areas in Taiz have killed and injured dozens in the span of three days, as the city struggles with a salary crisis and a cholera epidemic.

Houthi militias heavily shelled residential areas in Taiz for three days from Sunday 21 to Tuesday 23 May, injuring and killing dozens of civilians, including women and children.

A report by the Aden-based ministry of human rights documents fatalities including children as young as three.

“The act of direct targeting and indiscriminate shelling of houses and neighbourhoods, which are only inhabited by citizens – the majority of whom are women and children -shows how this militia underestimates the life of citizens,” reads the report.

The ministry called on the UN and human rights groups to “pressure and stand firmly against these militias and their crimes against civilians and to take the necessary procedures to condemn them and end their destructive acts”.

On Tuesday, the medical NGO Doctors Without Borders reported treating 57 patients with war wounds in just one day in Taiz. The majority of the casualties were women and children.

“Militias kill civilians without mercy,” a local citizen named Fahd told The New Arab.

“There is no security in Taiz, so it is easy for some weak souls to practice assassinations. The health situation is deteriorating,” he said.

“Most citizens find it difficult to access healthcare, because most of the medical staff left Taiz for other cities.

“The living situation in Taiz is very difficult, because the government has not paid the salaries of citizens for more than eight months,” said Fahd.

Yemen’s salary crisis has left six million without income.

Local media reports that forces loyal to the internationally recognised president, Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, were able to retake control of the Taiz branch of the central bank on Tuesday 23 May.

Hadi’s government sacked the governor of the central bank in Houthi-held capital Sanaa in September 2016, in a controversial move that left civil servants without salaries.

As most civil servants are providers for their families, this had the knock-on effect of leaving six million Yemenis without an income.

Many civil servants, including doctors, had to resort to alternative livelihood strategies, further draining an already strained health system.

Taiz is one of the epicentres of the conflict between Houthi militias and government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition. Access to the city for humanitarian assistance and medical supplies is very limited, and aid convoys are often seized.

“Violence is crippling health systems in conflict-affected countries and threatens children’s very survival,” said UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Geert Cappelaere.

“Beyond the bombs, bullets and explosions, countless children are dying in silence from diseases that could easily be prevented and treated.”

A new cholera epidemic has led to 329 deaths and 32,056 confirmed new cases since the end of April. Of those, 16 percent are children under the age of five.