UNHCR aid reaches northern Yemen

Briefing Notes, 13 October 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 13 October 2009, 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.




UNHCR country pages

Internally Displaced People

The internally displaced seek safety in other parts of their country, where they need help.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

During Sri Lanka's 20-year civil war more than 1 million people were uprooted from their homes or forced to flee, often repeatedly. Many found shelter in UNHCR-supported Open Relief Centers, in government welfare centers or with relatives and friends.

In February 2002, the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) signed a cease-fire accord and began a series of talks aimed at negotiating a lasting peace. By late 2003, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their often destroyed towns and villages.

In the midst of these returns, UNHCR provided physical and legal protection to war affected civilians – along with financing a range of special projects to provide new temporary shelter, health and sanitation facilities, various community services, and quick and cheap income generation projects.

Sri Lanka: IDPs and Returnees

Gulf of Aden People-Smuggling: International Help Needed

An alarming number of people are dying trying to reach Yemen aboard smugglers' boats crossing the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. Over a three-week period in late 2005, at least 150 people perished while making the journey. These deaths are frequently the result of overcrowded boats capsizing or breaking down and going adrift without food or water. Those who survive the voyage to Yemen often give brutal accounts of smugglers beating passengers or forcing them overboard while still far off shore – in some instances with their hands and feet bound.

In response, UNHCR has issued an urgent appeal for action to stem the flow of desperate Ethiopian and Somali refugees and migrants falling prey to ruthless smugglers in a bid to reach Yemen and beyond. The refugee agency has also been working with the authorities in Puntland, in north-eastern Somalia, on ways to inform people about the dangers of using smugglers to cross the Gulf of Aden. This includes production of videos and radio programmes to raise awareness among Somalis and Ethiopians of the risks involved in such crossings.

Gulf of Aden People-Smuggling: International Help Needed

2011 Yemen: Risking All for a Better Future

Plagued by violence, drought and poverty, thousands of people in the Horn of Africa leave their homes out of desperation every year. Seeking safety or a better life, these civilians - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - make the dangerous journey through Somalia to the northern port of Bossaso.

Once there, they pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden on smugglers' boats. They often wait for weeks in Bossaso's safe houses or temporary homes until a sudden call prompts their departure under the veil of night, crammed into small rickety boats.

Out at sea, they are at the whim of smugglers. Some passengers get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before reaching the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds of innocent people who die en route.

The Yemen-based Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS) has been helping these people since 1995. On September 13, 2011 UNHCR announced that the NGO had won this year's Nansen Refugee Award for its tireless efforts to assist people arriving from the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea.

2011 Yemen: Risking All for a Better Future

Yemeni NGO wins Nansen AwardPlay video

Yemeni NGO wins Nansen Award

The Society for Humanitarian Solidarity wins the 2011 Nansen Refugee Award for helping tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who make the treacherous journey to Yemen on smugglers' boats.
Yemen: Waiting for peacePlay video

Yemen: Waiting for peace

The Yemeni government has declared the war in the north is over. But most of the roughly 280,000 people uprooted by the violence are reluctant to return home.
Yemen: Further DisplacementPlay video

Yemen: Further Displacement

In Yemen the fighting continues in the north. UNHCR reports that the numbers of families fleeing is mounting and camps for the displaced are becoming crowded.