* Over half of population food insecure, hospitals bombed

* Blockade, fighting creates unemployed "new poor"

* Bombings sow fear among Yemen's most vulnerable people

By Noah Browning

DUBAI, Feb 10 Elderly Hamama Yousif was rushedto the main hospital in one of Yemen's largest cities after anartillery round lashed her chest with shrapnel, only to findthat the doctors there had run out of the oxygen tanks needed tosave her life.

In a video captured by local news station Yemen Youth TV,worried relatives carry her, still talking, to almost everyclinic and hospital in the war-torn city of Taiz - none had anyoxygen - until motionless and dead, she was finally taken to themorgue.

Once known as "Arabia Felix" or happy Arabia, Yemen has beendisfigured by 10 months of war into one of the worsthumanitarian crises in the world, where over half the populationfaces hunger and not even hospitals are spared.

The wounded and the dying find little comfort in al-Thawrahospital in the southwestern city of Taiz: Pressure from nearbyshelling has blown out all the windows and several direct hitshave reduced one ward nearly to dust.

"Our situation is disastrous in every possible way," saidSadeq Shujaa, head of the local doctor's union.

"Shelling hit the only cancer hospital and the children'shospital, shutting them down. The war has sent doctors fleeingfor their lives to the countryside and siege tactics mean wehave to smuggle in medicine through mountain passes."

Taiz is contested between local militias and the armedHouthi group which many residents say blocks aid from enteringand bombs civilian targets. It is one of the worst fronts of thewar, in which forces loyal to a government ousted by the Houthisin March are seeking to fight back to the capital Sanaa.

After the government fled into exile, a Saudi-led allianceof Arab states joined the war to restore it, recapturing theport city of Aden where President Abd Rabbu Mansour al-Hadi isnow based.

Riyadh and its allies have launched hundreds of air strikes,sent in ground troops and set up a naval blockade to restrictgoods reaching the country. The Saudis say the Houthis, drawnmainly from a Shi'ite sect that ruled a thousand-year kingdom innorth Yemen until 1962, are puppets of Shi'ite Iran.

The Houthis have allied themselves with army units loyal tolong-serving former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and say theyare leading a revolution against a corrupt government in thrallto the foreign invaders. They deny receiving support from Iran.


STAGGERING CRISIS

The fighting has killed around 6,000 people, about half ofthem civilians. Many times more are now in danger as a result ofthe humanitarian catastrophe wrought by the conflict.

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) warns of a"staggering" food crisis, saying famine looms as over half thepopulation or some 14.4 million people are food insecure.

"The economy shrank by 35 percent in 2015. People who usedto have decent standards of living have become Yemen's 'newpoor' because with no electricity to power their business and nofuel to get anywhere, they have no way to earn money," saidMohammed al-Assadi of UNICEF.

"2.4 million people are internally displaced. In theseconditions there's no easy access to basic hygiene orhealthcare, and now about 320,000 children under five years oldare severely malnourished," he added.

On the outskirts of Sanaa and in towns outside Taiz,clusters of shabby tent encampments housing thousands offamilies fleeing nearby violence have cropped up, where joblessparents idle and many children shrivel with hunger.

In peacetime, impoverished Yemen imported 90 percent of itsstaple foods. Much of the 4 percent of the arid country that isarable land now lies untilled because of the war.

"Besides the humanitarian catastrophes, a lack of jobs pavesthe way for a social and political crisis in which work skillserode and some people join the war effort to earn a living,feeding a cycle of violence," said Salah Elhajj Hassan of FAO.


HIDING IN CAVES

Workers from the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres(MSF), among the few foreign aid groups operating in Yemen'sworst war zones, have suffered repeated attacks in the farnorthern province of Saada straddling the Saudi border.

An ambulance from an MSF-affiliated hospital rushed to thescene of a suspected Saudi-led air strike on Jan. 21, but justas crowds gathered to assist the victims another bomb fell andkilled a medic.

An MSF hospital was bombed on Oct. 27 in what the Saudi-ledcoalition says was a strike intended to target militiamennearby.

Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri, spokesman for theSaudi-led coalition, said the foreign forces were working toreduce civilian deaths, but aid groups like MSF should preventHouthi fighters from approaching their facilities.

As Yemeni society becomes increasingly militarised,combatants are often mixed among civilians. Rights group HumanRights Watch blamed Houthis for basing forces in a centre forthe blind in the capital that was bombed on Jan. 5.

The bomb did not explode, but rendered the facilityunusable.

Days after the blast, a young boy with grey sightless eyesfelt his way through the rubble and picked up a dead pigeon, ina moment captured by a local cameraman that has embodied formany Yemenis the sadness of the war.

Fear now reigns even where aid is available. MSF officialTeresa Sancristoval said in a statement that most of the 40,000residents in an area near an MSF hospital bombed on Jan. 10 nowlive in caves to avoid Saudi-led air strikes.

"Since the attack, there have been no deliveries in thematernity room - pregnant women are giving birth in caves ratherthan risk coming to the hospital," she said. (Editing by William Maclean and Peter Graff)



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