Yemen: ICRC Bulletin No. 08/2009 - Thousands displaced by conflict in just a few months

News and Press Release
Originally published
Five months have passed since the latest round of fighting erupted in the north of Yemen. Amid deteriorating conditions, it is becoming increasingly difficult to reach those who need aid. Nevertheless, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent are pressing ahead with their humanitarian activities.

The situation has deteriorated to such an extent that the main aim of many civilians is simply to survive amid the ongoing conflict. While people living in many parts of the country were recently able to enjoy Eid Al-Adha festivities, tens of thousands in Sa'ada, Amran and other areas had no choice but to spend the Islamic holiday coping with the horrid din of war and the rigours of freezing winter. "Many people are having to leave their homes and all, or nearly all, their belongings behind in a desperate attempt to find safety," said Annabelle Boettcher, the ICRC's deputy head of delegation in Yemen. "Some people - quite a large number, in fact - are finding it too dangerous even to flee. We believe there are lots of people still in danger."

Dozens of civilians have reportedly been killed or injured in attacks in several parts of Sa'ada governorate. The ICRC has not yet been able to verify this information because of lack of access to the areas concerned, but it renews its call on all parties involved to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law. It urges them in particular to spare civilians and their property the effects of the fighting and to allow unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid. All persons detained in connection with the conflict must be treated humanely. The ICRC stands ready to visit any such persons and to provide other services in its capacity as a neutral and impartial humanitarian organization.

In recent weeks, thousands of people have reportedly fled Al-Talh, Marran and Razeh districts in Sa'ada governorate to take refuge either in Sa'ada city or in Mandaba camp (in north-western Sa'ada governorate, not far from the Saudi border), putting even more strain on those areas' already limited capacity to accommodate newcomers. In Sa'ada city, the recently opened Al-Jabbana camp is currently hosting more than 650 displaced people (IDPs) of the approximately 13,000 now living in five camps in Sa'ada governorate.

"The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society are doing everything in their power to bring aid to people adversely affected by the fighting," said Ms Boettcher. "It is very difficult to assess their needs - and even more difficult to meet them - because of the ongoing fighting, which has caused repeated displacement, disrupted communications and a general lack of security. We cannot go wherever we want whenever we want in Sa'ada and Amran governorates."

Certain conflict-affected areas - not only in Sa'ada governorate, such as some sectors along the border with Saudi Arabia, but also in Amran governorate further to the south - are still unreachable. However, after weeks of attempts, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent succeeded in distributing vital aid to around 1,300 displaced people in the remote area of Al-Buqa', in northern Sa'ada governorate. Around 700 others, displaced from Al-Nushour (also in northern Sa'ada governorate), could not be reached because of the security situation and had to come down to Sa'ada city to receive assistance.

Since mid-August, at least 150,000 people in Sa'ada and Amran governorates have been affected in one way or another by the armed conflict. The ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent have so far provided around 73,000 displaced people in both governorates with water, food and other essential items.

Water, food and other essential items

Over the past three weeks, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent have:

- ensured that around 40,000 people in Sa'ada governorate have a continuous flow of water. Among them are some 13,000 displaced people living in five camps managed by the Yemen Red Crescent, more than 8,300 displaced people living in Sa'ada city, and over 17,500 residents of Al-Mahader and Al-Azgool, south and west of the city, respectively;

- given around 14,000 displaced people in or near Mandaba camp (in Baqem, not far from the Saudi border in north-western Sa'ada governorate) a one-month food ration - a second delivery of food by the World Food Programme handed over to the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent - and some 8,000 displaced people essential household items;

- distributed blankets, mattresses, stoves, jerrycans and other household essentials to some 2,800 people from Al-Buqa' (northern Sa'ada governorate);

- provided a daily supply of potable water in Wadi Khaiwan and the town of Khamir in Amran governorate for more than 4,600 people displaced from the conflict-affected Harf Sufyan district;

- built a water point in Khaiwan Al-Hamra (Amran governorate), which is now serving more than 1,700 displaced people and over 4,000 residents;

- continued to provide potable water for around 500 displaced people in Amran governorate's Al-Gubba and Bani Sureym areas.

Health care

In cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent and the Ministry of Health and Population, the ICRC has:

- ensured that medical support continued to be provided for Yemen Red Crescent health units in the three camps for displaced people in and around Sa'ada city (Al-Ehsa', Al-Talh and Sam) and for units located in Al-Husn, Al-Azgool, Al-Quzha, Al-Hadab and Al-Gharbi;

- provided support for the Yemen Red Crescent health-care centre in Sa'ada city, which continues to work seven days a week, providing an average of 100 consultations per day and between 50 and 60 immunizations per day for women and children;

- continued to supply the two health-care centres in Wadi Khaiwan, north of Amran governorate, with basic medicines to help them deal with an average of 1,400 consultations a week;

- assessed the number of displaced people in Amran city and their access to health facilities. Since one health-care centre in Amran city was found to lack essential medical items, the ICRC provided it with a basic medical kit containing a three-month supply of basic medicines for treating common ailments such as respiratory infections, bowel infections and diarrhoea, as well as antibiotics and paracetamol syrup for children.

For further information, please contact:

Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Sana'a: tel: +967 1 213 844 or +967 711 94 43 43

Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva: tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18

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