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Yemen: UN refugee agency voices alarm at increasingly bloody violence

Yemen: UN refugee agency voices alarm at increasingly bloody violence

Refugees at a camp in northern Yemen
The United Nations refugee agency today voiced alarm over the deteriorating security situation in Yemen, where hundreds of people have died in clashes pitting Government forces against peaceful demonstrators and armed groups seeking to oust President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Two Somali refugees, a 14-year-old boy and a young woman, were killed last week during fighting between armed tribesmen and security forces near the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, according to Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Media reports stated that the presidential residence had come under mortar attack today as fighting raged in Sana’a.

“We’re also seeing Yemeni families fleeing in the south and renewed displacement to the north,” he said. Dozens of refugee families have fled the al-Hasaba area near Sana’a and UNHCR and partners are encouraging them to move in with relatives and friends until the situation calms down, Mr. Edwards said.

The agency has so far provided 150 refugee families with emergency funds to relocate, as well as water and relief supplies. For those without any support, UNHCR is exploring other shelter options such as renting a building for temporary accommodation.

The violence has also affected internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the earlier conflict in Sa’ada in the north, with more than 80 IDP families having fled fighting in al-Hasaba and returned to Sa’ada city and the surrounding areas. UNHCR has managed to locate 43 of the families and is providing relief in the form of shelter and basic supplies.

In southern Yemen, ongoing clashes between Government forces and gunmen in Abyan governorate have displaced an estimated 20,000 people. Hundreds of families have fled the city of Zunjubar to the surrounding areas, according to Mr. Edwards.

“UNHCR, our partners and local authorities are also helping 982 families hosted in seven schools in Aden city. The majority of IDPs are being hosted in small villages near Zunjubar. Aid agencies are working with the local authorities to assess the situation and provide urgent help to these newly displaced people,” he said.

In addition to the new IDPs, the agency has been assisting nearly 200,000 refugees and over 300,000 displaced people in northern Yemen and the escalating conflict is affecting UNHCR’s ability to offer protection and assistance.