Yemen: situation of conflict-affected population made worse by harsh weather

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As conflict rages on in northern Yemen, cold weather is further aggravating an already critical situation. The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent are carrying on with their humanitarian activities.

"The woes of Yemenis affected by the conflict in the north of the country are being made worse by harsh weather and low temperatures, in particular in the governorates of Sa'ada and Amran," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the ICRC's head of delegation in Yemen. "The situation is all the more difficult because some basic necessities are not available on the market and prices are soaring."

Temperatures can rise as high as 20 degrees Celsius during the day but fall below zero at night in the mountainous regions of the north. As a result, the risk of respiratory infection is increasing, especially among children. Places like Mandaba, in the extreme north of Sa'ada governorate, can experience extreme cold, strong winds, heavy rains and frost that can damage crops.

As fighting drags on in Amran and Sa'ada governorates, especially in Sa'ada city's old town, and along the border with Saudi Arabia, people continue to flee. Over the New Year's period alone, several thousands of displaced people (IDPs) arrived in Sa'ada, some of them to find a temporary home in Al-Jabbana camp, which was set up in November. The camp, originally designed to accommodate around 650 people, is being expanded and is now hosting more than 2,500. With ICRC support, the Yemen Red Crescent Society currently runs five such camps in Sa'ada governorate - four of them in and around Sa'ada city, and a fifth one in Baqim, Mandaba, in the north-west of the governorate.

Safety remains the primary concern of people living in areas where fighting is taking place. The ICRC reiterates its call on all those who can influence the situation on the ground to take every feasible measure to ensure that the civilian population is protected and to facilitate the immediate and safe passage of humanitarian aid. All necessary measures must be taken to spare the lives of civilians and their property.

The ICRC also stands ready to visit people detained or captured in connection with the conflict, and will continue to do everything it can to assist those needing shelter, food, water and health care . Access to most of Sa'ada governorate remains extremely limited and security conditions are difficult, but together with the Yemen Red Crescent the ICRC is determined to maintain its aid effort.

Since the outbreak of renewed fighting six months ago, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent have provided aid for more than 150,000 conflict-affected people in Sa'ada and Amran governorates, including some 75,000 displaced people living in or near camps who are still being given food, water, primary medical care and such household essentials as blankets and cooking stoves. Since October 2009, the number of people living in camps for displaced people in Sa'ada governorate has more than doubled, from barely 6,500 to more than 14,000.

Assisting displaced people and residents

The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent continue to operate in the governorates of Sa'ada and Amran to meet the urgent needs of people adversely affected by the conflict. Over the past three weeks, the two organizations have:

- organized a first round of food distributions to some 2,500 displaced people living in the newly established Al-Jabbana camp in Sa'ada city;

- given one-month food rations to around 11,800 displaced people living with host families in Sa'ada city, and blankets, mattresses, cooking stoves, tarpaulins, jerrycans, soap and other essential items to some 8,400 people newly arrived in the area;

- given one-month food rations to more than 15,000 displaced people living in or near Mandaba camp - a second delivery of food to the area by the World Food Programme handed over to the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent.

Supplying clean water

The ICRC has:

- started building four additional water points in Sa'ada city's Al-Jabbana camp for displaced people;

- continued to ensure that water needs in Sa'ada city are met through more than 40 water points, and that more than 50,800 displaced people and residents in Sa'ada city, Al-Mahader and Al-Azgool (west of the city) have an unimpeded flow of water;

- continued to supply potable water for more than 9,500 displaced people and residents in Wadi Khaiwan, Khamer and Al-Gubba in the governorate of Amran.

Providing medical care

The ICRC has provided supplies to:

- Yemen Red Crescent health units in camps for displaced people;

- a 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;

- two health-care centres in Wadi Khaiwan, in northern Amran governorate, to help them deal with an average of 1,400 consultations a week;

- one health-care centre in Amran city.

The supplies include basic medicines for treating common ailments such as respiratory infections, bowel infections and diarrhoea, as well as antibiotics and paracetamol syrup for children.

Since many people have limited access to health-care facilities, the ICRC continues to work in close cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent and the Ministry of Public Health and Population to meet the medical needs of displaced people and residents. Over the past three weeks, the ICRC has:

- provided a tent and other necessary items for a primary health-care clinic in Al-Jabbana camp for displaced people in Sa'ada city to ensure that the Yemen Red Crescent and the health ministry are able to provide round-the-clock medical care;

- organized a two-day workshop in Amran for 22 health ministry staff and two Yemen Red Crescent volunteers to refresh their knowledge of primary health care, and provided support for a second H1N1 training course organized by the health ministry for more than 20 of its doctors;

- given two-month supplies of medicines to the two Wadi Khaiwan clinics, in northern Amran, and to the Sa'ada governorate's eight Yemen Red Crescent field clinics and the Red Crescent health-care centre in Sa'ada city;

- provided the health ministry in Sana'a with a kit for treating more than 50 wounded patients and with other medical items.

The ICRC has 140 staff working in Yemen, including 28 expatriates.

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