Population of biggest IDP camp doubles

The population of Yemen’s main camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) has doubled over the past few weeks as fighting between Houthi-led rebels and government forces continues, according to officials.

“We now have about 20,000 IDPs in al-Mazraq 1 camp [northern Yemen] and the camp is very overcrowded. We have about 1,000 families [about 7,000 individuals] in the reception area alone,” Mai Barazi, a UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) team leader in Harrad (about 20 minutes’ drive from the camp) in Hajjah Governorate, told IRIN.

“We’ve extended the camp for the third time; however, we won’t be able to accommodate all the new arrivals and some of them will have to be moved to al-Mazraq 3 camp,” Barazi said.

The new al-Mazraq 3 camp is due to be set up between al-Mazraq 1 and al-Mazraq 2. The latter opened about a week ago and has so far accommodated about 570 families (about 4,000 people), Barazi said.

Al-Mazraq 2 is funded by the United Arab Emirates, but entry criteria are stricter: proof of residence in Saada Governorate, the centre of the conflict, is required, some aid workers said.

According to a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report on the IDP situation in northern Yemen issued on 19 November, there were about 10,000 IDPs in al-Mazraq 1 camp receiving food aid.

A state-run IDP camp in neighbouring Amran Governorate is also crowded and dangerously close to the front line.

Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Yemen Red Crescent have set up Al-Jabbana, a new camp in Saada city, with a capacity to host around 1,000 IDPs.

Al-Jabbana is the fifth camp managed by the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent. The others are Al-Ehsa, Al-Talh and Sam in and around Saada city, and Mandaba camp, in Baqem District, which was set up more than a month ago.

UN agencies estimate the five-year war between government forces and Houthi-led rebels has displaced about 175,000 people, most of whom had settled outside official IDP camps.

News agencies recently reported that the Yemeni army had stepped up efforts to seize full control of Saada city.