Senior UNHCR official visits Yemen amid continuing displacement
AL MAZRAK CAMP, Yemen, November 13 (UNHCR) - One of the UN refugee agency's seniormost officials is reviewing UNHCR's operations in Yemen amid a surge in the number of civilians being displaced by fighting in the north of the country.
Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Janet Lim on Thursday visited Al Mazrak Camp for a first-hand look at how UNHCR is helping some of the tens of thousands of people displaced in the fresh fighting since August between government troops and Al Houti forces in the northern province of Saa'da.
Over the past few days, some 150 new families (800-900 people) have been arriving every day at the camp, which is located south-west of Saa'da in Hajjah province. This is a significant increase over the 20 to 30 families per day in the previous weeks.
"The camp has now exceeded its capacity, with nearly 10,000 internally displaced people living there," a UNHCR spokesman said, adding: "The latest influx is adding more pressure on an already dire situation, and overcrowding in the camp is becoming a major concern. Three or four families now share a tent normally meant for one."
Lim met a number of Yemeni families in Al Mazrak who are becoming concerned about the approaching winter. Most of the internally displaced people (IDP) in the camp are women and children.
A number of IDPs told her overcrowding was a major concern and that they don't have enough tents, mattresses or latrines. "We need to make life for IDPs in the camp as normal as possible, especially if they have to stay there for a longer time. There remains a lot to be done," Lim said.
While improvement of the living conditions in the camp remains a priority, UNHCR is also ready to assist local authorities and non-governmental organizations in speeding up the construction of Al Mazrak II camp. This will house up to 1,000 families and is expected to be ready in the coming days.
The Assistant High Commissioner also opened a centre designed to serve only women in Al Mazrak camp and allow them to feel safe in seeking help for their special health and protection concerns, and simply to give them some much-prized privacy.
Meanwhile, with the new rise in displacement figures and the anticipation of a continuous influx of IDPs, UNHCR will also continue to extend assistance to those who sought shelter with the local community. In general, host families and local communities accommodate the majority of the displaced population in Yemen.
An estimated 175,000 people have been affected by the conflict in Yemen since 2004, including those displaced by the latest crisis.
By Marie Marullaz and Laure Chedrawi in Al Mazrak Camp, Yemen