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UNHCR calls on donors for fresh contributions to Yemen operation

News Stories, 5 February 2010

© UNHCR/L. Chedrawi
UNHCR staff assist forcibly displaced people at a tented settlement in northern Yemen last year.

GENEVA, Yemen, February 5 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency on Friday said it might have to scale back on its vital work in Yemen because of a lack of funding and called on donors for fresh contributions to its operations there for tens of thousands of refugees and internally displaced people (IDP).

"We are facing a dramatic funding situation in Yemen," UNHCR's chief spokesperson, Melissa Fleming, told journalists in Geneva. She said that UNHCR's part of the 2010 UN consolidated appeal for Yemen amounts to US$35.6 million, but "to date, we have received less than three per cent of the needed funds."

The dire funding situation is diminishing UNHCR's capacity to register and document refugees and IDPs, to monitor their situation and to address their needs. Fresh funds are also required to expand the existing, overpopulated IDP camps and to build new ones; to organize and provide shelter materials, namely much needed tents and plastic sheeting; and to provide basic relief items such as blankets, mattresses, household goods and hygiene kits.

"We are deeply concerned that unless there is a prompt and adequate response from donors, the lack of funding will very soon have a direct impact on our work to protect and assist some 250,000 IDPs and more than 170,000 refugees in Yemen," Fleming said.

"With continuing conflict in the north of Yemen and ongoing conflict in Somalia generating a continuous influx of Somalis towards Yemen, these numbers continue to grow," the spokesperson added.

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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.

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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.

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