New escalation mars return prospects to northern Yemen
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 November 2010, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
At least 20 people have been killed reportedly and others wounded over the past ten days in the worst violence in northern Yemen since the signing of the cease fire in February. According to local NGOs, civil society and displaced Yemenis, the renewed clashes between Al Houti forces and pro-government tribes erupted in a remote northwestern part of Sa'ada province on 13 November.
A few Yemenis arriving in Sa'ada City from this isolated mountainous area say that heavy fighting, concentrated namely in Monabih and Qatabir districts bordering Saudi Arabia, is continuing. A local clinic treating wounded civilians has reportedly been looted.
Information on resulting displacement is patchy. According to eyewitness accounts families from the village of Jalhow in Monabih district have crossed into neighbouring Saudi Arabia. We are in the process of dispatching a small team from our regional office in Riyadh to establish the numbers and assess needs.
This is an alarming escalation. UNHCR adds its voice to that of the local mediation committee in calling for calm and protection of the civilian population.
Instability and slow implementation of the peace agreement is prolonging internal displacement in Yemen. More than 300,000 Yemenis are still displaced and need help.
To date only around 20,000 Yemeni internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned to Sa'ada governorate. Many see insecurity, fear of reprisals and new fighting, and extensive destruction of houses and infrastructure, as being the key obstacles to their return. Land mines and unexploded ordnance also remain a serious threat. The victims are often children, shepherds or returnees.
Due to the fragile security situation in Sa'ada our staff are only able to access the displaced and returnees in a radius of a seven kilometers around Sa'ada City. As of recently, there has been some movement of humanitarian workers outside the security belt around the city, but we remain very concerned about the lack of access and humanitarian situation in other parts of the governorate.
Yemen also hosts some 170,000 refugees, mostly Somalis and other nationals from the Horn of Africa.