In the Sa'ada region of North Yemen, confrontations between government forces and the Believing Youth resumed in January 2007. The fighting often takes place near inhabited areas. As a result, thousands of families were forced to leave their homes in search of safe haven.
An ICRC team is based in Sa'ada, and works in partnership with the newly established Sa'ada branch of the Yemeni Red Crescent Society (YRCS). The ICRC/YRCS teams aim to ensure that the most urgent needs of those affected by the fighting are provided through distribution of emergency supplies.
Humanitarian consequences of the armed confrontations in the North
One of the major consequences of the confrontations in the North has been the large number of persons driven from their homes in order to flee the fighting. Approximately 3,500 to 5,000 families are staying either in Sa'ada city and its surroundings or in areas to the North close to the Saudi border. Others have taken the difficult decision to stay in their villages in order to safeguard their homes and property and are left fearing for their lives.
The population of the Sa'ada region depends mainly on crops, herds and commerce for their living. As a result of the confrontations, these essential activities have been seriously disrupted, mainly due to restrictions on movement that leave internally displaced persons (IDPs) with limited means to cope with their current situation.
The ICRC in partnership with the YRCS is addressing the most urgent needs of the displaced and the residents who are giving them shelter.
Access to medical care has also been disturbed due to the confrontations. Medical personnel fearing for their lives were not able to reach health centres in areas where the fighting took place. In addition, exposure to wind, rain and heat further complicates the precarious living conditions of the displaced people, both for those staying with host families and for those grouped in different locations where they stay in tents provided by the ICRC/YRCS teams.
Access to food is becoming a problem in areas where movement is restricted as a result of the fighting. In urban areas, the increasing cost of basic materials such as food and fuel makes it even more difficult for the population to cope with the current situation. Many families have left their homes with just a few belongings that could help them in the short run. Given the enduring nature of the confrontations, those families will be dependent on humanitarian assistance to ensure acceptable living conditions.
The ICRC, through its dialogue with the parties on both sides, underlined its concern about civilians affected by the fighting, in particular by looting of their personal belongings, restrictions on movement and difficult access to medical services. Under international humanitarian law (IHL), people not or no longer taking direct part in hostilities must be protected and respected. The law also prohibits the destruction of water supplies, foodstuff and other items essential for the survival of the population.
Due to security constraints, the ICRC had limited access to the region, restricted to Sa'ada town and surrounding areas, including some IDP groupings. However, the YRCS had larger access to the affected areas.
Emergency assistance in favour of displaced persons in the North
From February to April 2007, the ICRC and YRCS provided emergency assistance to over 23,400 displaced people.
- 15,960 displaced people staying in Sa'ada city and surroundings areas received 699 tents, 1,447 tarpaulins, 16,533 mattresses, 17,916 blankets, jerry cans, washing soap and hand soap;
- 7,490 displaced people in Mahjar Achmas, Al Masaiba, Al Daira, Al Nawaz, Al Daquaeq, Al Ammar, Al Mahadir, Al Salem, Akwan, Bani Oer, Damaj, Mandaba and Al Asghool received 266 tents, 330 tarpaulins, 7,674 mattresses, 7,674 blankets, jerry cans, washing soap and hand soap.
Emergency medical care
At the outset of the fighting, the ICRC supplied first aid kits to six health centres located in the fighting zones, and wherever needed the ICRC/YRCS provided medical personnel to help treat the wounded. Three of these health centres treated a total of 140 wounded in February. This figure is in addition to the treatment of sick IDPs who were not able to reach other medical facilities due to restrictions on movement.
Addressing medical needs of sick IDPs
For the population, access to medical care was hampered by the ongoing armed confrontations in the North. The ICRC/YRCS team provided medical care in locations such as Al Anad, Mahjar Akhmas and Al Ammar, where over 5,200 displaced people had gathered.
Two YRCS medical assistants were able to treat up to 380 cases of sick IDPs, an average of 20-30 cases per week. For urgent emergency cases, the ICRC referred sick IDPs to the republican hospital in Sa'ada town and covered the cost of the medication.
Water trucking and sanitation
Since February 2007, the ICRC addressed the IDPs' urgent needs for clean drinking water.
- In Al-Anad, where 1,500 displaced persons are present, the ICRC/YRCS installed four water tanks to cover their daily needs. These tanks are filled three times a day. In addition, 24 latrines have been constructed to serve the sanitation needs of the population, 12 of these are reserved for women only.
- In Al Salim over 400 displaced persons did not have access to clean drinking water. The nearest water points were located 5-10 km away. Accordingly, the ICRC/YRCS organized water trucking to this area.
- In Mahjar Akhmas in Al Saifi area, four water tanks were installed to the benefit of 550 displaced people.
- Assessments and evaluations of the water situation in other areas where displaced people are present such as Al Sahn and Mandabah were carried out with the aim of addressing their needs if any.
Restoring family links
ICRC tracing services help asylum seekers and refugees in Yemen to locate and restore contact with family members in their home countries, mostly in the Horn of Africa. They also enable Yemeni families to restore and maintain ties with relatives held in U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Significant numbers of Yemeni families and Iraqis living in Yemen have been able to locate and re-establish contact with relatives in Iraq through ICRC tracing services.
- 35 tracing requests were filed during the period under review; among them 11 persons were located and 77 are still being sought;
- 1,449 Red Cross messages (RCM) were exchanged between refugees in Yemen and family members in their home countries;
- 315 RCM were exchanged between Guantanamo internees and their families in Yemen;
- 67 RCM were exchanged between families and persons detained in relation to the conflict in Iraq and 17 RCM between families and persons detained in relation to the conflict in Afghanistan.
In many countries and with the specific mandate given to the ICRC, its delegates are visiting prisoners of war and other detainees. In Yemen, the ICRC aspires to visit detainees according to ICRC standard modalities. A dialogue is currently taking place with the Yemeni authorities regarding access to all places of detention in Yemen.
- six detainees were visited by the ICRC after their transfer from Guantanamo Bay to the Political Security detention centre in Sana'a.
- Vocational training for women in six central prisons continued to be successfully implemented in partnership with the YRCS. The project aims to build the capacities of detained women in the fields of literacy, sewing, weaving and needlework in Mahaweet, Hodeida, Dhmar, Amran, Aden and Hajji central prisons.
ICRC/YRCS activities in Sa'ada 2005-2006
- 3,500 people were assisted in 2006 following an assessment in the area. A joint team consisting of three ICRC staff members and 14 YRCS volunteers provided IDPs with 2,000 blankets, 2000 mattresses, 500 tarpaulins, kitchen utensils, cooking stoves, gas cylinders and soap.
- Five health centres in areas that were affected by the fighting were provided with first aid material.
- The ICRC and the YRCS assisted the inhabitants of the Marran area in Sa'ada governorate in June 2005 when a joint team distributed water filters and provided construction material for the repair of 84 ponds that were damaged during the fighting in 2004.