UNHCR aid reaches northern Yemen

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

The situation in the north of Yemen remains tense and volatile. The civilian population of Sa'ada governorate continues to flee to the surrounding provinces as the fighting between government troops and Al Houti forces shows no sign of abating. As street battles continue in the city of Sa'ada, the humanitarian situation continues to worsen. Many shops and stores have run out of basic commodities and supplies. Electricity is available from 6pm to midnight and access to the only remaining functioning market is now blocked. Water supplies are available just twice a week. UNHCR's local partner continues to register internally displaced people (IDPs) in the city of Sa'ada, despite the surrounding conflict.

The security situation surrounding the IDP camp in Khaiwan in Amran governorate is of serious concern to UNHCR. Due several incidents over the past three days, UNHCR has requested the government to suspend further development of the site and not to move the new IDPs there. At the same time, UNHCR appeals to the government to allow the UN to start the distribution of aid to IDPs outside the camp.

In Hajjah governorate, the influx of IDPs to Al Mazrak camp continues, increasing the need to establish the second camp at a site identified five kilometres from Al Mazrak. We are working closely with the local authorities to ensure the speedy and efficient establishment of this second camp.

Meanwhile, a cross-border convoy carrying aid for some 2,000 people stranded close to Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia crossed into Yemen at the town of Alb on Sunday (11 October). The distribution of tents, mattresses, blankets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans and hygiene items is scheduled to take place today (13 October). This assistance arrives in addition to the Yemeni government's food and aid convoy also arriving in the area. The arrival of UNHCR's aid would not have been possible without the close collaboration between the Saudi and Yemeni authorities and UNHCR. According to a recent government assessment, there are between 3,000-4,000 displaced people in the border area, most of them in need of assistance and in a desperate situation after fleeing from the northern districts of Sa'ada province. We are planning to send another aid convoy to reach those in need. At the same time, the UN is expecting to receive authorization from the government to conduct its own needs assessment exercise.

UNHCR welcomes and supports the recent calls of UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes for rapid and unfettered access to the population trapped in the conflict zone, and for protection of the civilian population.

An estimated 150,000 Yemenis have been affected by the fighting in the north since 2004, including those displaced by the latest escalation.