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Crisis in northern Yemen deepens

Briefing Notes, 4 September 2009

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 4 September 2009, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Heavy fighting between Al Houti forces and government troops continues in the Sa'ada governorate in northern Yemen, entering the fourth week of conflict.

The situation is most critical in the city of Sa'ada which has been cut off from the rest of the world for more than two weeks. The road to Sa'ada is extremely dangerous as clashes continue. Numerous checkpoints and roadblocks have been erected. A state of emergency and a 12 hour curfew are still in place, further isolating the area.

Civilians, including some 35,000 internally displaced people (IDP), in and around Sa'ada remain trapped by the fighting and are unable to reach safer parts of the country.

Information coming from Sa'ada is scarce as both mobile and internet networks are down. UNHCR staff evacuated from Sa'ada reported that in addition to air strikes and mortar attacks around the city, street fighting has erupted in the old city and in Al Salam street just a kilometer away from the UNHCR field office. One UNHCR staffer opted to stay with her family in Sa'ada.

There has been no water or electricity in Sa'ada city since 12 August. Food reserves are running low and the situation is becoming untenable for families, many of who are hosting friends, relatives or neighbours displaced by the street battles. High temperatures during the day and heavy rains at night have left stranded civilians, most of them observing the Ramadan fasting period, in dire need of food and clean water.

Clashes have spread outside of the Saada governorate, reaching neighbouring southern Amran province, in particular the area of Harf Sufyan, hindering access to the area by humanitarian organizations. UNHCR still has no access to Al Jawf province where an estimated 4,000 IDPs are seeking shelter.

We estimate some 150,000 people have been affected by conflict in Yemen, including those displaced by recent hostilities.

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