Civilians continue fleeing clashes in northern Yemen, UN reports

11 December 2009
A group of forcibly displaced people in north Yemen.

Thousands of civilians continue to steam out of northern Yemen, where the clashes between Government forces and rebels enter their fifth month, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.

The situation in Sa’ada province remains tense, and the situation in Razeh district is particularly worrying, as civilians’ freedom of movement is restricted and basic services such as electricity and water are lacking, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The agency estimates that 175,000 people have been affected by conflict since 2004, including those displaced by the latest surge in fighting between the Government and Al Houthi rebels.

“Shortages of food and other commodities have pushed the prices sharply upwards and more and more people are unable to afford their basic needs,” UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.

The massive influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is straining shelter and aid resources in neighbouring provinces.

In just the past month, the number of displaced in Al Mazrak camp has doubled, with 21,000 IDPs seeking refuge in a site designed to hold up to 10,000, and “overcrowding is presently the top concern for us,” Mr. Mahecic said.

At least 500 families in the camp are sharing their one-family tents, while another 1,300 families are waiting for tents, and the overcrowding has impeded the delivery of humanitarian services.

Funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Al Mazrak 2 camp opened late last month. Designed to accommodate up to 1,000 families – or 7,000 people – so far 200 families have sought shelter in the new site.

After reaching an agreement with Yemeni authorities this week, UNHCR experts have started planning for a new Al Mazrak camp to house the continuing influx of IDPs.

In addition to displaced people seeking refuge in camps, the number of IDPs settling with the local population outside the camps has increased as well, the agency said.

“In general, local communities are bearing the brunt of the continuing displacement in Yemen,” Mr. Mahecic stressed.

Fighting continues in Amran province, with the security situation increasingly worrisome in the Khaiwan and Houth districts. As a result, UNHCR and other agencies operating in the area have reiterated their call for a relocation of the camp in Khaiwa.


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