UNICEF alarmed by deteriorating humanitarian situation in northern Yemen

AMMAN/SANAA/GENEVA, 13 October 2009 - It has been eight weeks since fighting escalated in northern Yemen and humanitarian agencies are yet to be allowed access to the vast majority of the 150,000 persons, mostly children and women, displaced by the conflict and to the thousands of others who remain stranded inside the conflict zone.

"The humanitarian situation is getting worse by the day," said Aboudou Karimou Adjibadé, UNICEF Representative in Yemen. "Thousands of children have had very limited access to safe water, food and hygiene in weeks. Malnutrition levels are on the rise and children are facing serious threats to their well-being and even lives."

United Nations agencies and humanitarian organizations still have no access to the affected population in Saada due to the ongoing fighting. Roads are blocked, there are reports of landmines, and telephone connections are down.

In the governorate of Hajjah, where an estimated 20,000 internally displaced persons have sought shelter, UNICEF has been providing life-saving assistance to displaced persons in Al Mazraq camp as well as those scattered in nearby areas. Some of these actions include:

- Establishing an out-patient therapeutic care programme to detect and treat acutely malnourished children, and providing essential supplies including medicine and ready-to-eat therapeutic food.

- Training 20 female volunteers from the camp in how to screen children for acute malnutrition, promote breastfeeding and encourage personal hygiene practices.

- Drilling a borehole to provide both displaced persons and host communities with clean water.

- Increasing drinking water supplies to 160,000 liters per day, amounting to 23 liters per person per day with the current population of the camp.

- Building 40 additional household latrines, with the participation of the community.

As school children enter the second week of the new school year, UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education to register children who have been displaced and ensure their enrolment in nearby schools. As of 9 October, some 600 children were registered in the camp, in addition to 200 children from the local town. Five additional teachers were hired to support the surge in student numbers.

UNICEF distributed 2,000 school kits and will be providing 100 recreational kits which include balls, skipping ropes and drawing pads.

Thousands more displaced persons remain in urgent need of similar assistance, but lack of security is preventing access.

Saudi Arabia recently said it would allow humanitarian agencies to use its route to deliver urgently needed supplies displaced people trapped in the border region near the town of Baquim. UNICEF and other agencies will be using this route as soon as the necessary visas are granted.

UNICEF, along with other humanitarian agencies, renews its call for immediate and safe access to the affected populations, as mandated by international humanitarian law.

An appeal that UNICEF made for $6.1 million to finance emergency interventions in northern Yemen is less than half funded, with $2.9 million received or committed so far.

Note to the editor: Egyptian actor and UNICEF Regional Ambassador Mahmoud Kabil will be travelling to Yemen 18-20 October to learn about and highlight the impact of the current fighting on children. He will be meeting with government officials and visiting the Al Mazraq camp for displaced persons. Photos and footage of his visit will be made available.


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

Truls Brekke, UNICEF Yemen,
Tel + 967-71-222-3402,

Najwa Mekki, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa,
Tel + 962-6-550-2425,