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YEMEN: USAID donates US$1.7 million in food aid
Thousands of people in Saada are in need of humanitarian aid, say aid agencies
SANAA, 15 July 2008 (IRIN) - The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has donated US$1.7 million in urgent food aid for conflict-affected civilians in northern Yemen as well as Somali refugees in the south.
Most of the aid - US$1.2 million - is for the alleviation of the humanitarian situation in the northern governorate of Saada where fierce clashes between government forces and Shia rebels have left thousands displaced and many dead or injured.
The donation included 2,540 metric tonnes of wheat, wheat flour, kidney beans, green peas and rice, which will be distributed by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).
"In a meeting with UN aid representatives, international NGOs [non-governmental organisations], and other foreign diplomats, US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche reiterated the US government's concern over the humanitarian situation in Saada, calling for immediate measures to alleviate the severe hardships faced by the civilian population," the US embassy said in a statement on 12 July.
The US donation came a few days after the European Commission said it had approved one million euros [about US$1.57 million] in emergency humanitarian aid to assist civilians in Saada
. Expanded combat zone
The most recent fighting in northern Yemen, which has been going since the collapse of a Qatari-brokered peace agreement two months ago, extended for the first time beyond Saada Governorate to the Harf Sufian area in Amran Governorate and Bani Hushaish, a district 20km northwest of Sanaa city.
Observers said the current clashes were the fiercest since fighting first broke out in 2004, since when hundreds of people have been killed.
Shia rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi's Information Office said on 12 July that its fighters could now stop government forces from entering Saada as well as Harf Sufian, and that they had destroyed tanks and killed some soldiers in heavy fighting in those areas.
Some 120,000 people affected
|Displaced people gather in Haidan district in Saada|
According to aid agencies, about 120,000 people have been directly affected by the fighting since it began in 2004. There are now six camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Saada Governorate, accommodating thousands who have fled the clashes. Thousands of other IDPs also live with host families in Saada city.
Hundreds of families in Harf Sufian were displaced after their villages were destroyed by government troops, according to local sources. The IDPs are mainly living with host families in nearby villages.
According to Hiwar Forum, a local NGO in Sanaa, the four-year war has led to 20,000 orphans, 10,000 handicapped people, 9,000 war widows, 6,000 families who have lost bread-winners, and a large number of military and civilian deaths.
Aid agencies assisting civilians in Saada Governorate include WFP, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Yemeni Red Crescent Society (a local NGO), Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).