Humanitarian situation continues to crumble in northern Yemen – UN refugee agency

13 October 2009

With fighting between Government forces and rebels showing no signs of letting up and stores having run out of basic supplies in northern Yemen, the United Nations refugee agency said today that the humanitarian situation in the area continues to deteriorate.

Street battles continue to rage in Sa’ada city, while electricity is only available for six hours a day and water just twice a week, Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva.

Some 150,000 people have been driven from their homes by fighting between Government forces and Al Houthi rebels that first erupted in 2004.

UNHCR expressed its serious concern over the security situation of the camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Kaiwan, Amran governorate.

Because of incidents that have taken place over the past three days, the agency has “requested the Government to suspend further development of the site and not to move the new IDPs there,” Mr. Mahecic said, also appealing to authorities to allow the UN to assist uprooted people outside the camp.

A second site is urgently needed in Hajjah governorate, as IDPs continue fleeing to the area, he noted.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today that thousands of people – including many women and children – affected by the clashes have yet to be reached with humanitarian assistance.

“The humanitarian situation is getting worse by the day,” cautioned Aboudou Karimou Adjibadé, the agency’s Representative in Yemen.

According to UNICEF, thousands of children have limited access to safe water, food and hygiene over the past weeks, while malnutrition levels are on the rise.

Thanks to cooperation with the Governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, a cross-border convoy loaded with enough UNHCR aid – including tents, blankets and hygiene items – for 2,000 people stranded near the border between the two countries crossed into Yemen over the weekend.

“According to a recent Government assessment, there are between 3,000 and 4,000 displaced people in the border area, most of them in need of assistance and in a desperate situation after fleeing from the northern districts of Sa’ada province,” Mr. Mahecic, the UNHCR spokesperson, noted.

The agency, he said, welcomed the call issued in recent days by John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, on all sides in the conflict to ensure that aid workers can reach those in need, noting that insecurity is hampering access to several areas.

“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,” he said on Sunday, 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.

“Without immediate assistance the humanitarian situation is bound to deteriorate and further endanger stability,” he warned.

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, of which only 16 per cent has been covered, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.


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