Aid workers must have access to those in need in Yemen, stresses top UN official

12 October 2009
Clashes between government troops and Al Houthi rebels in northern Yemen are putting the lives of IDPs at risk

The top United Nations humanitarian official has urged all sides in the conflict in northern Yemen to ensure that aid workers can reach those in need, noting that insecurity is hampering access to several areas.

Some 150,000 people have been driven from their homes by fighting between Government forces and Al Houthi rebels that resumed in mid-August.

“I urge all involved in the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians in line with international humanitarian law, to allow us to reach those who need assistance, rapidly and without hindrance, and to enable civilians to leave insecure areas,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said yesterday as he concluded his mission to Yemen.

Humanitarian agencies have been able to reach some areas through local partnerships and the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but continued insecurity, including attacks on aid convoys, still severely hampers access.

“The humanitarian situation is serious,” said Mr. Holmes, who met some of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) during a stop in Hajjah governorate on Friday.

“There has been progress in terms of registering and providing relief to those IDPs where we have access, especially in the camps, but we still have a long way to go. Aid agencies and local authorities need to work together to improve the quality of their assistance.

“I am particularly concerned about the people whom we are unable to reach, especially those who are trapped in the conflict zones,” he stated.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), thousands of civilians in the Sa'ada governorate in particular face threats from violence, increasing food and fuel prices, and limited access to health care. The risk of communicable disease outbreaks is rising since many health facilities are not functioning.

Mr. Holmes, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, noted that Yemen is facing a number of very serious challenges. “Without immediate assistance the humanitarian situation is bound to deteriorate and further endanger stability.

“I am trying to make sure that the international community is aware of the seriousness of what is happening and of the need to make sure that we have enough resources to respond,” he said.

A $23.7 million Flash Appeal was issued in early September to provide life-saving support to the IDPs and tens of thousands of others who have been indirectly affected by the conflict. It has so far received $10 million in terms of commitments and pledges, according to OCHA.


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