Yemen: Aid workers must be enabled to reach all in need

(Sana'a/New York/Dubai, 11 October, 2009): The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. John Holmes, today concluded his three-day mission to Yemen. Following a visit to Hajjah governorate on Friday to see the situation of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) on the ground, Mr. Holmes met H.E. President Saleh, the Prime Minister, two Deputy Prime Ministers, the Foreign Minister, the Health Minister and other key officials, and well as humanitarian agencies, NGOs and donors. The background is that, since mid-August, renewed clashes between Government forces and Houthi rebels in the north of the country have brought the total number of IDPs to an estimated 150,000.

"The humanitarian situation is serious. There has been progress in terms of registering and providing relief to those IDPs where we have access, especially in the camps, but we still have a long way to go. Aid agencies and local authorities need to work together to improve the quality of their assistance," said Mr. Holmes. "I am particularly concerned about the people whom we are unable to reach, especially those who are trapped in the conflict zones," he continued.

Thousands of civilians in the Sa'ada governorate in particular face threats from violence, increasing food and fuel prices, and limited access to health care. The risk of communicable disease outbreaks is rising, since many health facilities are not functioning.

The humanitarian community is extending its reach through local partnerships, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been crucial in this regard. However, continued insecurity, including attacks on aid convoys, still severely inhibits the passage and distribution of relief items, especially in Sa'ada and Al Jawf governorates and in parts of Amran governorate.

"Aid workers are here to help the people of Yemen, regardless of their affiliation or background," Mr. Holmes said. "Civilians are at high risk from the conflict and it is women and children, who comprise about 80% of the displaced population, who are most vulnerable. 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 added.

For the majority of those affected, the conflict comes against a backdrop of poverty. Even before the latest clashes, Yemen was ranked as the most food-insecure country in the Middle East, with just under half of children under-five chronically malnourished.

"Yemen is facing a number of very serious challenges. Without immediate assistance the humanitarian situation is bound to deteriorate and further endanger stability," Mr. Holmes said. "I am trying to make sure that the international community is aware of the seriousness of what is happening and of the need to make sure that we have enough resources to respond," he concluded.

A US$23.7 million Flash Appeal issued in response to this crisis has received approximately US$10 million in terms of commitments and pledges since it was launched on 2 September. The Appeal is comprised of life-saving projects to assist the projected caseload of 150,000 IDPs and tens of thousands of others who have been indirectly affected by the conflict.

For further information, please call:

OCHA Sana'a: Nadia Evans, +967712087883, +971502279808,;

OCHA-New York: Stephanie Bunker, +1 917 367 5126, mobile +1 917 892 1679,; Nicholas Reader, +1 212 963 4961, mobile +1 646 752 3117,, John Nyaga +1 917 367 9262, +1 917 318 8917,

OCHA-Geneva: Elisabeth Byrs, +41 22 917 2653, mobile +41 79 473 4570,

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