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Yemen: Massive displacement continues

Briefing notes

Yemen: Massive displacement continues

11 December 2009 Also available in:

Thousands of civilians continue to flee their homes in northern Yemen as the fighting between government troops and Al Houti forces enters the fifth month.

Situation in Sa'ada province remains tense and the newly arriving internally displaced people (IDPs) report clashes in Haydan, Beni Muath, Eel Ammar and Al Taleh areas. The situation in Razeh district is of particularly serious concern as civilian population there faces restrictions of movement and lack of basic services such as electricity and water. Shortages of food and other commodities have pushed the prices sharply upwards and more and more people are unable to afford their basic needs.

The continuing massive influx is straining existing shelter and aid resources in the neighbouring Hajjah and Amran provinces. Over the past month alone, the IDP population of Al Mazrak 1 camp in the Hajjah governorate has doubled. There are now some 21,000 IDPs living in a camp initially designed to shelter up to 10,000 people and overcrowding is presently the top concern for us.

At least some 500 families in Al Mazrak camp are sharing their tents, normally meant for one family, with one or two other households. We estimate another 1,300 families, accommodated in 48 large communal tents in four transit areas of the camp, are presently waiting for allocation of a family tent.

Overcrowding in the camp has negative impact on delivery of humanitarian services as people have to wait longer for allocation of tents and cue for distribution of aid and services in the camp.

To accommodate the new arrivals, the Al Mazrak 1 camp has been reorganised and expanded for the third time with the help of the IDPs. Some 200 new tents were erected in the past days and distribution of aid items to these newly installed families has followed immediately.

The Al Mazrak 2 camp, funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), opened on 25 November. It is designed to accommodate up to 1,000 families (approximately 7,000 people). To date some 200 families, mostly from the transit areas of Al Mazrak 1, have moved to the second camp - joining another 600 IDP families who came from the nearby squats and villages.

Following an agreement with the Yemeni authorities this week, UNHCR experts began site planning for a third camp at Al Mazrak to accommodate the continuous influx of IDPs. The planned capacity of the new site is 1,000 families (7,000 people) and the first IDPs are scheduled to move there early next month.

Similarly, the number of IDPs settling with local population outside the camps has increased as well. According to our teams on the ground, some 48,000 IDPs are now registered in the Hajjah governorate - including the camp population. UNHCR continues to extend assistance to those who sought shelter with the host families. In general, the local communities are bearing the brunt of the continuing displacement in Yemen.

Meanwhile in Amran province, fighting continues in Harf Sufyan area, particularly around the Black Mountain. The security situation is increasingly worrisome in the districts of Khaiwan and Houth. Both the local and IDP communities are living under precarious conditions, especially in Khaiwan where a number of security incidents have been reported over the past weeks. UNHCR, together with other humanitarian agencies working in this area, has reiterated its appeal for a relocation of the Khaiwan camp.

Displaced Yemenis in Amran and Khamer districts face daily hardships ranging from lack of access to health services and education, lack of adequate housing, to child labour and problems of acceptance by the host community. In addition to the difficulties to sustain their means of livelihood, some IDPs have to pay rent to host families. As of January, UNHCR's humanitarian response to the issue of shelter and livelihoods will include a form of support to the host community.

An estimated 175,000 people have been affected by the conflict in Yemen since 2004, including those displaced by the latest crisis.