While the United Nations is reporting that Cyclone Chapala – the rare tropical storm that slammed into Yemen’s southern coast yesterday, dumping perhaps a year’s worth of rain in some areas – is expected to weaken to a tropical depression over the next 12 hours, the immediate concern remains the welfare of an estimated 1 million people, mainly in the two governorates of Shabwah and Hadramaut.
“The UN and its partners are using all available routes into the affected areas to deliver assistance: from Aden as the principle dispatch hub and Sana’a as an alternate; and from Djibouti by sea and from the east from Oman by road and sea,” UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York.
He also said that the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided 20,000 litres of diesel fuel to eight hospitals in Mukallah – the country’s fifth largest city – and 2,500 litres of petrol for 16 ambulances.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and WHO surveillance rapid response teams are also being deployed and a WHO shipment by sea with an additional 18.3 metric tonnes of medical supplies and reproductive health kits is also being deployed from Djibouti to Aden.
Cyclone Chapala made landfall in Yemen while fighting between the Government and rebel Houthi forces in the country continues. Since March 2015, the crisis has been an all-out conflict, with a military operation launched by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
Armed conflict has spread rapidly across much of the country, with devastating consequences for civilians. Partners now estimate that 21.1 million people – 80 per cent of the population – require some form of humanitarian protection or assistance. This represents a 33 per cent increase in needs since the conflict began, says OCHA.
The UN relief wing’s most recent update notes that the storm’s impact will be most severe in Shabwah and Hadramaut governorates. “These two governorates have a combined population of about 1.9 million people, 76 per cent (1.4 million) of whom are already in need of humanitarian assistance according to the 2015 Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview.”
“Initial reports suggest more than 40,000 people displaced or temporarily evacuated from coastal areas and at least 450 homes damaged or destroyed,” OCHA said in the update.
Based on reports from Socotra, three people died and nine were injured in the flooding. At the same, some 20,000 people were reportedly evacuated from coastal areas, and close to 400 homes have been destroyed. Officials in Shabwah also reported that 6,000 people had moved to higher ground to avoid anticipated flooding and potential rock falls.
“Meteorologists forecast the Chapala will weaken as it continues north-west towards the capital Sana’a,” notes the update, adding that “sustained winds of 118 km/h are expected and the trailing edge of the storm system will continue to bring heavy precipitation to coastal areas for the next 24 to 48 hours.”
According to OCHA, UN Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) has prepositioned stocks and has launched a response to the severe impact in Yemen. “A number of different aid delivery routes into the affected areas are being utilized.” HCT indicated that in the report.
The HCT has primarily been moving supplies from existing stockpiles in Aden along the coastal roads to Mukalla. They will use supplies from the Humanitarian Response Depot (HRD) in Dubai and the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team (UNDAC) in Oman to the coastal area.