UNHCR approves an internal loan to sustain its Yemen operation

Briefing Notes, 23 February 2010

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 23 February 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Faced with an acute funding shortfall for its Yemen operation, UNHCR has approved an internal loan amounting to US$ 4.7 million in order to continue programmes for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) in this country until mid-year. This step is an alternative to scaling down or suspending UNHCR's protection and assistance programmes which would have an adverse and irreversible impact on a civilian population forcibly displaced by seven months of conflict between the government and Al Houti movement in northern Yemen.

A weak donor response this year threatens our operational capacity and protection efforts to register and document some 250,000 IDPs, to monitor their situation and to address their humanitarian needs giving special attention to those most vulnerable namely children, women and elderly.

The funds are also urgently needed to expand the existing, already overpopulated IDP camps at Al Mazrak and to build new ones in the north of the country, to organize and provide shelter materials, namely tents and plastic sheeting as well as to provide the basic relief items such as blankets, mattresses, hygienic kits, etc.

To date, we have received fewer than ten per cent of the needed funds. UNHCR's part of the 2010 UN consolidated appeal for Yemen amounts to US$ 39 million.

Meanwhile, displaced Yemeni civilians in Al Mazrak camps in Hajjah province remain hopeful but cautious about the first holding cease-fire and their readiness to return immediately. The general sentiment is similar in Amran and Sa'ada governorates. So far, movements have been limited to individual family members assessing the situation on behalf of the entire households.

Initial sketchy reports from IDPs confirm considerable difficulties in moving through parts of Sa'ada province which had been affected by the fighting. Some roads are still blocked and there are unmarked areas littered with mines and unexploded ordnance. A report of one casualty of an IDP due to a mine explosion has further strengthened fears among IDPs regarding the safety of return.

Mines and unexploded ordnance pose a serious risk for returning refugees and IDPs worldwide. We again urge caution to prevent any further and unnecessary loss of civilian lives in Yemen. Removal of mines and unexploded ammunition and the resumption of basic services are priorities before any massive return can take place. UNHCR is poised to assist the voluntary and safe return process.




UNHCR country pages

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 humanitarian aid group wins 2011 Nansen Refugee Award

The founder and staff of the Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS), a humanitarian organization in Yemen, has won the 2011 Nansen Refugee Award for their work in aiding and rescuing refugees and migrants who make the dangerous sea journey across the Gulf of Aden from the Horn of Africa. View a slideshow of the group's life-saving work, patrolling the beaches of southern Yemen for new arrivals and providing food, shelter and medical care to those who survive the dangerous journey.

Yemeni humanitarian aid group wins 2011 Nansen Refugee Award

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.