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Assessments find desperate situation for displaced Yemenis

Briefing notes

Assessments find desperate situation for displaced Yemenis

19 May 2015

Early reports from some 40 or so assessments in Yemen conducted by UNHCR and partners during the five-day humanitarian pause have revealed enormous difficulties for thousands of civilians displaced by conflict. The number uprooted from their homes since late March is now estimated to be more than 545,000.

The temporary pause in hostilities officially ended at 11pm Sunday night. It nonetheless allowed UNHCR to fly in more aid, transport supplies from ports to distribution hubs in Sana'a and Aden, and preposition and distribute aid to displaced people in previously hard-to-reach areas. All six of our planes bringing aid from Dubai were able to land safely in Sana'a. Ten trucks moving aid from Sana'a to Aden eventually got through - although the journey took three days instead of one due to delays at checkpoints and localized fighting. In-country stocks of relief items are now three times higher than they were before the pause.

The rapid protection assessments were conducted in 40 districts across 11 governorates of Yemen - Sana'a, Amant Al-Asimah, Abyan, Lahj, Mareb, Shabwa, Hajjah, Taizz, Amran, Aden and Al-Dhale - most previously hard to access. Teams found traumatized populations - afraid, upset, and struggling to meet basic needs.

In the Amant Al-Asemah area of Sana'a, we interviewed displaced people staying with host families where several households now crowd under a single roof, without adequate bathrooms or water supply. Fuel shortages make it difficult to pump water, even where wells exist. Many of the people in this area were economically vulnerable before the crisis, and are even worse off now. Most have lost their livelihoods and are entirely dependent on aid. Simple jobs like trading, grazing, farming and daily wage labouring have all been severely restricted in the conflict. The soaring prices for food, fuel and bottled or trucked water compound the difficulties. With the situation dragging on, many displaced people hosted by others are concerned to find their own shelters. Checkpoints, insecurity and high transport prices make it difficult to move about. Access to basic health care is too far away for many, and transport too expensive. Scores of children were found to be malnourished, while the accumulation of garbage makes crowded situations worse, raising fears that disease will spread.

In Aden, our teams met a couple and their seven children, the youngest just one month old, staying in a secondary school with another 53 families. They fled their home in the Dar Saad district of Aden two weeks ago, and ran 12 kilometres on foot until finding shelter in one of the many public buildings hosting families in the Sheikh Othman district of Aden. The family shares a room with no electricity or running water, and sleeps on a salvaged plastic advertising banner that had fallen onto the street during recent shelling.

Our partner in Sa'ada says normal life has almost ground to a standstill, with no electricity, no internet or landlines. Ninety-five per cent of shops are closed, and only one restaurant is open in the whole city. Water is scarce and there is very little movement because of the shortages of fuel. The remaining inhabitants, mostly men guarding their property, remain indoors. There is wide-scale destruction of government buildings and shops situation near traffic junctions, including some buildings in old Sa'ada.

UNHCR and partners will continue to distribute aid to vulnerable families in Yemen, although the resumption of hostilities may further hinder our efforts.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Geneva, Adrian Edwards, on mobile +41 79 557 91 20
  • In Geneva, Ariane Rummery on mobile +41 79 200 7617