IDP camp situation worsens

The humanitarian situation in IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in war-ravaged Saada and neighbouring governorates in northern Yemen is worsening due to a lack of basic services - water, sanitation and food - UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann Veneman said in a statement on 24 August.

“Thousands more families remain trapped inside the conflict zone, unable to reach safer areas,” Veneman said. “They, too, are in urgent need of humanitarian support.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on 24 August that insecurity was hindering aid agencies’ efforts to reach people affected by the fighting, which could see up to 150,000 people uprooted since the clashes first began in 2004.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on 25 August that the clashes between the army and Houthi-led Shia rebels had led to the displacement of 35,000 people in the past two weeks, adding that its team on the ground said there had been no water or electricity in Saada city since 10 August.

“Thousands of people have fled the fighting to seek refuge in Saada city and surrounding areas. They probably could not take much with them, and many are now left stranded without even a roof to protect them from the rain," Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen, said. "Their most important immediate needs are shelter, water, food and access to medical care."

The ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS) have so far registered more than 12,000 IDPs in Saada Governorate and more than 4,000 in neighbouring Amran Governorate, according to ICRC communication delegate Rabab al-Rafai. “Staff of both organizations are also providing support for medical facilities.”

Camp capacities stretched

As people pour into Saada city, the capacities of the three remaining IDP camps in and around the city, which are jointly managed by the ICRC and YRCS, are being stretched to the limit, al-Rifai said, adding that the delivery of humanitarian aid was complicated by the fighting, which has restricted the movements of ICRC and YRCS personnel.

She said over 4,200 people are currently housed in Al-Ihsa' and Sam camps within the city and al-Talh camp outside the city, and many more displaced people are staying with host families in the city.

In a statement on 25 August, the ICRC said that in cooperation with YRCS it had helped relocate all 5,000 people from a fourth camp (al-Anad) just outside Saada city, which was caught in the line of fire, to safer places - some in the other three camps, others elsewhere in the city.

According to UN agencies, there are some 120,000 IDPs in Saada and the neighbouring governorates of al-Jawf, Hajjah and Amran as a result of intermittent fighting between government forces and Houthi rebels since June 2004. The latest clashes broke out on 12 August 2009, killing and injuring hundreds of government troops, rebels and civilians.