Renewed fighting displaces tens of thousands more across Yemen
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
Intensified hostilities across western and central Yemen continue to force tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, with many now struggling to cope in abysmal conditions. More than 62,000 have been reported to be displaced within the last six weeks.
On Yemen’s western coast, recent fighting in Taizz governorate has left more than 48,400 people displaced. The majority, some 35,226 people, have fled within Taizz or to neighbouring Hudaydah (9,822). Others have also been displaced to the nearby governorates of Ibb (1,068 people), Aden (900 people), and smaller numbers to Al Dhale’e, Lahj, Abyan and Shabwah.
Most of those displaced are in dire need of assistance and have found shelter in communal and public spaces, including schools and health facilities, whilst others are living in unfinished buildings or even out in the open.
A number of those displaced, including many children, have been reported as suffering from malnutrition, while others are distressed and in need of psycho-social assistance. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in areas of displacement are also leading to outbreaks of diseases, including skin ailments.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, together with partners, has quickly responded to the needs of the newly-displaced people from Taizz, including through the provision of shelter and relief items for those that arriving in districts of Hudaydah and Ibb.
UNHCR’s relief assistance - including mattresses, sleeping mats, blankets, kitchen sets and buckets - has so far reached over 14,000 people, whilst emergency shelter kits and tents have also been provided to cover the needs of more than 18,000. Additional distributions are planned, which will assist over 3,800 newly-displaced individuals from Taizz.
With fighting still ongoing, UNHCR continues to advocate intensely for access within Taizz itself to reach people in need. UNHCR participated in a joint mission late last month to the governorate’s flashpoint district of Mokha, which found that many of the displaced were living in appalling conditions, sheltering in public schools, health facilities and even exposed to the elements with no protection. Both displaced and host community families are struggling with a lack of basic assistance and have reported living in fear of violence.
Whilst UNHCR assistance has previously reached Taizz, intensified hostilities at present are hampering access. UNHCR continues to advocate for unfettered access and is trying to mobilise a response with all national actors on the ground.
Local host communities are also stretched to capacity and buckling under the strain of hosting additional, newly displaced populations. Not including the tens of thousands newly displaced, the governorates of Taizz, Hudaydah and Ibb are cumulatively hosting 25 per cent of Yemen’s total internally displaced population between them, or 504,258 individuals.
Elsewhere in central Yemen, the recent escalation of conflict in Dhamar Governorate, which borders Sana’a, has left thousands newly displaced. Triggered by a dispute in the governorate’s Utmah district, hostilities have forced more than 13,902 people from their homes across the governorate. Several sub-districts to which people have been displaced remain inaccessible, so the total number of those displaced may be much higher, and 6,978 IDPs among those recorded displaced, are now attempting to return home.
Main roads to the district currently remain blocked, hampering access to the population in need. Significant damage to civilian infrastructure has also been reported. The lack of adequate health facilities in the district also means that injured civilians can only seek treatment in a general hospital, which is 85 kilometres away.
Many of those displaced from the fighting are now in urgent need of food, shelter and medicine and lack adequate water and sanitation facilities. A number of women are also reporting psychological distress and malnutrition. UNHCR is currently mobilising to reach displaced families in the governorate.
With international support for the humanitarian response in Yemen severely lacking, UNHCR is immensely concerned about being able to respond to new and ongoing displacement across Yemen. With UNHCR’s 2017 budget for Yemen so far funded at only 7 per cent, available funding is only sufficient to deal with urgent emergency needs.
UNHCR’s assistance, including non-food items and shelter, is now restricted to new waves of displacement and we are no longer able to support regular distributions including to internally displaced Yemenis living in collective centres and informal settlements.
There are currently 2 million internally displaced people and 1 million IDPs who have provisionally returned to their places of origin across Yemen but still need humanitarian assistance. To address their needs and respond to new waves of displacement, UNHCR is calling for more international support for the response inside Yemen.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Sana’a, Shabia MANTOO, [email protected], on +967 71 222 5121
- In Geneva, William SPINDLER, [email protected], on +41 79 217 3011