By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – Civilians struggling to survive street battles & Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen's southern port city of Aden are moreover facing shrinking supplies of food & fuel, a senior official from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
Â Â Â Hunger & disease are threatening the 1 million residents of Aden, now a war zone caught between local militiamen & Houthi fighters, Bertrand Lamon told Reuters in Geneva.
Â Â Â "The general level of food stocks in Aden has been dramatically reduced because of the lesser volume of imports by sea & difficulty to transport items by road from (the capital)Sanaa," the outgoing head of the ICRC's delegation in Aden said.Â Â Â I
"People have restricted mobility because of the conflict & the front lines, they have no car, no resources to travel. So it makes people more vulnerable & dependent on external aid," he added late on Wednesday.
Lamon, a Swiss national, worked in Aden from January 2014 & stayed months into the Houthi military push on the city that prompted an Arab military intervention on March 26.
Â Â Â A Saudi-led coalition of Gulf Arab countries has been bombing the Iran-allied Houthis for three months to try to restore Yemen's exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Saudi Arabia, determined to thwart any arms deliveries to the Houthis, has imposed a near total blockade on a country heavily reliant on imports.
Nationwide fuel shortages have spread disease & suffering in arid Yemen, where access to water usually depends on fuel -powered pumps & over 20 million people – 80 percent of the population – needs some form of aid, according to the United Nations.
The United Nations has quoted Aden health officials as saying that 8,000 people had contracted dengue fever in the city since the crisis began in March, including 590 who died from the disease.
The ICRC deploys 12 international staff & 50 Yemenis who cross front lines in Aden to retrieve dead bodies & deliver aid, including fuel to water pumping stations that supply half of the city's residents.
Aden's oil refinery was shelled twice by the Houthis in the past week, destroying two storage talks & a pipeline connecting it to the oil port.
The damage, Lamon said, was "very partial," & the refinery continues to be tapped for local use & serves as a vital lifeline for residents, hospitals & aid groups.
As calls by the U.N. & aid groups for an immediate ceasefire have gone unheeded, the estimated number of 2,800 people killed nationwide in the fighting & air strikes looks set to rise.
An ICRC surgical hospital opened in the city's Al-Mansoura district last month, with approximately 50 beds.
"If the conflict gains in intensity we will unquestionably have a mass casualties scenario where health facilities will be overwhelmed," Lamon said.
(Editing by Noah Browning & Andrew Heavens)