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Yemeni conjoined twins die in blockaded Sanaa — rebels

By AFP - Feb 11,2019 - Last updated at Feb 11,2019

Ali Al Bahshani, grandfather of a pair of conjoined twins, carries their dead body during their burial through a cemetery in the capital Sanaa on Sunday (AFP photo)

SANAA — Newborn Yemeni conjoined twins whose plight sparked a plea for urgent medical treatment overseas died in Sanaa on Saturday, rebels in the blockaded capital said.

Abdelkhaleq and Abdelrahim were born outside Sanaa around two weeks ago, and shared a kidney and a pair of legs but had separate hearts and lungs.

The head of paediatrics at Sanaa's Al Thawra hospital, Dr Faisal Al Babili, said his department lacked the facilities to treat or separate the newborn boys and appealed on Wednesday for help from abroad.

Houthi rebels, who have been fighting the Saudi-backed government since 2014, blamed a Riyadh-led military coalition for the deaths after "refusing to open Sanaa airport to allow them to get treatment", according to the rebels' media statement on Saturday. 

Late on Wednesday, the head of Saudi Arabia's King Salman Aid and Relief Centre, Abdullah Al Rabeeah, said he had a team that was prepared to treat them.

Rebel-held areas of Yemen have been under blockade by a Saudi-led military coalition since it intervened in support of the beleaguered government in March 2015.

Health services have collapsed as the conflict has ground on and most hospitals are not equipped to provide specialist treatment for rare conditions.

Bringing patients out for treatment poses enormous logistical challenges. 

Mediators are pushing for the reopening of Sanaa international airport. 

The government accuses the rebels of smuggling arms through the airport and Hodeida — a rebel-held port city vital to the delivery of humanitarian aid. The Saudi-led coalition has severely restricted flights to and from Sanaa and shipments through Hodeida. 

Since 2015, some 10,000 people have been killed and more than 60,000 wounded in the conflict, most of them civilians, according to the World Health Organisation.

Human rights groups say the real figure could be five times as high.

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