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Returns to northern Yemen sluggish - UNHCR rushes winter aid

Briefing notes

Returns to northern Yemen sluggish - UNHCR rushes winter aid

22 October 2010 Also available in:

Slow implementation of the peace agreement signed in June between the Yemeni government and Al-Houti forces is prolonging civilian displacement in northern Yemen's Sa'ada province. As winter approaches, UNHCR estimates that more than 300,000 people remain displaced and needing help.

To date only around 20,000 Yemeni internally displaced people have returned to their homes in Sa'ada governorate. Many tell us that the biggest obstacles to larger scale returns are lack of security and safety, fear of reprisals or new fighting, and extensive destruction of houses and infrastructure. Reports of incidents involving land mines and unexploded ordnance are common. They often involve children, shepherds, or returnees, and have fatal outcomes.

The fragile security situation in Sa'ada means that our staff are only able to access the displaced and returnees in a radius of a few kilometers of Sa'ada City itself. While the situation seems to be somewhat improving, allowing, as of recently, some movement of our staff outside the security belt around the city, we remain concerned about the lack of access and humanitarian situation in other parts of the governorate.

As most of those who fled from Sa'ada are likely to spend the coming winter displaced - either in camps or with host families - we are rushing additional blankets and tents as well as some support to those who found accommodation on their own which will help the IDPs through the cold period. Average winter temperatures in the highlands of northern Yemen drop below zero degrees Celsius.

So far, some 30,000 IDPs have received winter assistance - mostly in Amran province north of the capital Sana'a. In order to assist some of 2,400 displaced still sheltering at the Mandabah makeshift site, in the most northern tip of Yemen just a couple of kilometers from the Saudi border, we have dispatched a five-truck aid convoy from Saudi Arabia. These IDPs have been living in quite harsh conditions lacking shelter, sanitation and food. The trucks reached Mandabah late last week and brought tents and other shelter material, thousands of blankets and mattresses, hygienic items and cooking sets.

Further large scale distributions in Sa'ada and Sana'a governorates are scheduled for the next two weeks. Together with our partners, we plan to provide blankets and other aid to some 100,000 IDPs in need of such assistance.