We need to reopen Yemen’s airports and sea routes to save lives

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Deserted arrivals halls. Empty baggage carousels. A wasteland of silent departure gates. Images that once seemed apocalyptic have become the new global reality. Today’s coronavirus pandemic has forced people across the world into a form of captivity often bemoaned as imprisonment.

As national borders have closed, respective worlds have shrunk. Opportunities, connections and freedoms have disappeared. Birth, deaths and marriages of friends and family on the outside have been missed. 2020 will be defined for many by all that they have had to give up.

Replace the word “pandemic” with “war” and the picture above holds true for millions of people in Yemen stripped of their right to travel for the past four years. Yemeni civilians have been trapped in an open-air prison since Sana’a International Airport was shut down in August 2016.

For four years, seriously ill Yemenis living in the capital and across northern parts of the country have not been able to fly out for lifesaving treatment. Thousands of children, women and men may have died prematurely because they were unable to access hospitals abroad, according to local heath authorities.

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