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Yemen: more must be done to ensure aid gets through

08-10-2009 News Release 09/206

Geneva/Sana'a (ICRC) – The conflict in northern Yemen is increasingly putting civilian lives at risk, leaving tens of thousands without vital aid and forcing many more to flee conflict areas. Unless more is done to protect civilians and ensure that they can receive life-saving aid, the situation will worsen further, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said today.

" The situation has drastically deteriorated in recent weeks, " said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the ICRC's head of delegation in Yemen. " Safety is the primary concern of those stranded – including women, children and elderly people – in areas where fighting is taking place. But access to food, water and health care is almost as vital, and shelter is a concern, too, as nights are becoming colder. "

Most Yemenis in the northern part of the country have already gone through years of conflict, which have added to the burden of harsh living conditions and worsening poverty. " Many people told us that they had their homes damaged or completely destroyed by the intense fighting that started on 12 August, " said Mr Marti. " They had to leave most if not all of their belongings behind. They lost their jobs or their businesses, spent whatever money they had on food and other essentials, and are now unable to obtain other necessary supplies because the items are no longer available or because prices have soared. "

Families that have taken refuge in school buildings, for instance in Khaiwan Medina, are now under pressure to leave as the school year is starting. Other families are living in what remains of destroyed houses, or have no choice but to remain out in the open, protecting themselves with plastic sheets and blankets.

Together with the Yemen Red Crescent Society, the ICRC is providing food and other essential items for residents and displaced people (IDPs) in Sa'ada town and in Amran governorate, but obtaining safe access to other areas, particularly in Sa'ada governorate, remains a challenge.

Over the past two weeks, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent have distributed food to almost 16,000 displaced people and their host families in Wadi Khaiwan, Bani Sureym and Hawazat Hashed, in Amran governorate. They have also provided urgently needed water for some 8,500 displaced people and residents in the governorate. In addition, they have been delivering medicines and medical supplies to two health-care facilities of the Ministry of Health and Populations in Wadi Khaiwan serving an average of 200 patients per day.

The ICRC calls upon all those who can influence the situation on the ground to take every feasible measure to ensure that the civilian population is protected and facilitate immediate and safe passage for humanitarian aid. All necessary measures must be taken to spare the lives of civilians and their property. The wounded and the sick must be allowed to receive medical treatment, and everything possible must be done to ensure that medical personnel, facilities, and vehicles are spared the effects of the fighting. The red crescent emblem must be respected at all times.

 
For more information, please contact:
  Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Sana'a, tel: +967 1 213 844 or +967 711 94 43 43
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18