Turkey sent 5,400 tons of aid to war-torn Yemen on Friday in a major donation to humanitarian aid efforts for the country.
A ship set sail from Turkey's southern Mersin port on Friday, carrying the aid, probably the largest amount of aid given by Turkey to Yemen, as the population of the country on the Arabian Peninsula struggles in the face of ongoing civil war. More than 170,000 people have fled the country and more than 1.4 million have been internally displaced since the conflict erupted in March 2015.
Deputy Prime Minister Yalçın Akdoğan attended the farewell ceremony for the mercy ship. The Prime Ministry's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) coordinated the efforts for a nationwide aid campaign. AFAD has sent more than 4,400 packages of food and six tons of medical supplies to Yemen since May 2015.
The ship carrying food packs containing flour, sugar, cooking oil, tomato paste, rice and pasta and medical packs containing medicine and serums is expected to arrive at Yemen's Aden port in the following weeks. The aid was collected in Turkey by six Turkish charities and the Turkish Red Crescent.
The Turkish Red Crescent already dispatched a ship to Yemen with humanitarian aid following a call by an umbrella body of Islamic nongovernmental organizations to mobilize and help Yemenis. Food safety, health conditions, access to water and lack of shelter are among the main problems of the internally displaced people.
Yemen has remained in turmoil since 2014 when Houthi rebels overran the capital Sanaa, from which they have sought to extend their influence to other parts of the country.
On March 25, 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies began an extensive military campaign targeting Shiite Houthi positions across Yemen.
Riyadh says its anti-Houthi campaign comes in response to appeals by embattled Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi for military intervention against the Shiite group. The Houthis, however, denounced the offensive as unwarranted "Saudi-American aggression" against Yemen.
Turkey supports Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen, although only verbally, but urges for a political solution to end the conflict. According to figures provided by the United Nations, more than 6,100 people have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi coalition began its air campaign. About half of them are estimated to be civilians.
Mediation efforts by the United Nations to end the war have been fruitless and the latest round of peace talks between Houthis and government loyalists in January failed to find an agreement. Both have accused each other of violating a brief cease-fire coinciding with the talks.
Yemen is one of the poorest countries on the Arabian Peninsula with an economy further deteriorating because of the war and millions face hunger and disease due to lack of access to medical services. The United Nations refugee agency has said basic services across the country are on the verge of collapse and hundreds of health facilities are reported to have stopped functioning due to damage or lack of fuel.