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Humanitarian situation worsens in northern Yemen

Briefing notes

Humanitarian situation worsens in northern Yemen

25 August 2009

The escalation of fighting between Al Houthi rebels and the government forces in northern Yemen over the past few days is worsening what is already a dire and complex humanitarian emergency.

We are especially worried about the situation in Sa'ada city, the provincial capital of Sa'ada governorate. UNHCR team in Sa'ada city reports there is no water and no electricity in the city since 10 August. There is also a shortage of fuel and it is becoming increasingly dangerous and hard for the people to reach the market to get food. Our staff on the ground had registered some 700 newly displaced families over the past two weeks. However, registration has been suspended due to security situation inside the city and the 24 hour curfew.

In the neighboring Hajjah governorate, southwest of Sa'ada, we are continuing to register internally displaced people (IDPs) and distribute aid items including tents, plastic sheeting, blankets and jerry cans. Yesterday, (Monday, 24 August), some 865 families totalling almost 6,000 people received UNHCR assistance and more relief items are expected to arrive to this area later this week.

We are also assisting the Yemeni Red Crescent and the provincial authorities in Hajjah governorate to set up a new camp near Hajja, about 130 kilometres southwest of Sa'ada city. A UNHCR site planner has been deployed to Hajjah and is working with local authorities and other partners on the design and construction of the camp. The new camp is to accommodate the first 200 families by Friday, 28 August. Its planned capacity is 500 families -- some 3,500 people.

Following an interagency mission to Amran governorate, Yemeni authorities informed us of their intention to open a new IDP camp there as well. Most of the newly displaced are scattered and in remote areas as they found shelter with friends, relatives and host families.

The new camp will respond to the needs of the most vulnerable looking for protection and security. UNHCR will run the coordination and management of the camp and provide urgently needed shelter and protection. The new camp will be in Kheiwas some 90 kilometres south of Sa'ada. It is estimated that the new camp will accommodate initially 500 families and the government has indicated it will be ready within one week.

Meanwhile, we are preparing shipments of new aid for Yemen. Yesterday (Monday, 24 August), today and tomorrow UNHCR is loading at the central emergency stockpile in Dubai, nine 40-foot containers with 25,000 blankets, 6,000 plastic sheets, 6,000 kitchen sets and 300 canvas tents for Sa'ada. The ship carrying these relief items is scheduled to arrive in the port of Aden in the first week of September. In the meantime UNHCR is using the emergency stock pile in Yemen.

Since 2004, the clashes between the Al Houthi rebels and government troops in Sa'ada governorate have affected an estimated 120,000 people - 35,000 in the past two weeks alone.