Humanitarian situation in Saada remains poor despite peace agreement

The humanitarian situation in Yemen’s northern governorate of Saada remains poor as displaced families have not been able to return in spite of the peace agreement between the government and rebels, activists and officials say.

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Nabil Abdul-Hafeedh, secretary-general of the Social Democracy Forum, a local non-governmental organisation (NGO), told IRIN it was difficult to reach civilians in need of assistance.

"The Civil Society Coalition [a group of local NGOs] recently formed an aid convoy for the displaced families but the government didn't allow us to go there," Abdul-Hafidh said.

He said the displaced families were living in deteriorating conditions amid sporadic clashes between government forces and supporters of rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi.

"We are really worried about the situation in the north and we demand passage to reach the civilians there," he said.

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In mid June, the government reached an agreement with the rebels to end hostilities after mediation by the Qatari government. According to the agreement, the rebels were to hand in their weapons and in return the government would reconstruct war-affected areas.

Fighting between government forces and followers of rebel leader al-Houthi first broke out in 2004. It flared up again early this year after supporters of al-Houthi threatened to kill Jewish community members in Saada if they did not leave the country within 10 days.

Hundreds of people have been killed or injured since then, aid workers said.

Over 50,000 displaced

Eman Mo'ankar, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen, told IRIN that some 8,000 families - about 56,000 people - had been displaced by the fighting.

Mo'ankar said the ICRC, together with the Yemeni Red Crescent Society (YRCS), had so far assisted 5,300 families - roughly 37,100 people - out of the 5,700 displaced families currently in Saada town.

''We are really worried about the situation in the north and we demand passage to reach the civilians there.''

"ICRC and YRCS teams are working closely to assist the rest of them with emergency aid," Mo'ankar added.

Mo'ankar said the ICRC was concerned about the fate of displaced families in remote areas, particularly an estimated 2,800 families (about 20,000 people) in areas difficult to access owing to security constraints.

"However, the ICRC/YRCS had been able to provide emergency aid to 7,617 displaced persons in remote areas," she said.

Emergency relief, including tents, groundsheets, jerry cans, mattresses, blankets and hygiene supplies, is being provided to residents and displaced people, Mo'ankar said. "However, after several months of displacement other needs are arising such as the need for proper medical care and food," she added.

Health care

Displaced families are vulnerable to diseases. The ICRC, in partnership with the YRCS, has started a primary health care programme that will address the needs of 30,000 displaced.

"The ICRC is providing treatment for the most common diseases affecting displaced civilians, especially children under five who suffer the most in this kind of situation. Without this basic health care, common diseases could progress to become severe," Mo'ankar said.

She added that since 25 June clinics in different areas had provided consultations to over 2,000 individual internally displaced persons. "In severe and complicated medical cases, the ICRC is taking the sick to hospital in Saada and covering the cost of treatment."

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