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Yemen: Needs remain acute as country enters transition

15-02-2013 Press Briefing

As Yemen prepares for national dialogue, armed conflict and violence continue in the centre and the south. Needs remain acute and the ICRC is delivering aid, providing health care, improving water supplies and visiting prisoners. ICRC operations director Pierre Krähenbühl has just returned from a visit to the country and at a press conference in Geneva today he outlined the situation and the challenges to humanitarian endeavour in the country.

Situation

Two years after the events inspired by the Arab Spring, Yemen is in a transition phase. The country is preparing for a national dialogue and expectations are high.

At the same time, multiple armed conflicts and situations of violence are still affecting parts of the central and southern regions of the country. In the north, the situation is more stable than at other times over the past decade, with IDPs returning to their homes.

The needs are great. Some are emergency related: for example we distributed aid this week to civilians displaced by recent fighting between government forces and Ansar Al Sharia, an Al-Qaeda affiliate. Other sections of the population require other forms of support, and the ICRC played an important role in helping IDPs in the northern town of Sa’ada to return home from the camps in which they had taken refuge.

Access to those in need is essential, and we have improved the scope of our response markedly over the past 18 months, with extensive activities across many parts of the country.

Mr Krähenbühl has just come back from the capital Sana’a and the northern town of Sa’ada. He met the President of Yemen, Mr Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, the Foreign Minister, Dr Al-Qirbi, representatives of the Houthi group and Tawakul Karman, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.

Aid in 2012

  • Over 317,000 displaced people in both the north and the south received food.
  • 278,000 IDPs in Abyan, Shabwa, Lahj, Sa'ada and Amran received other essential items.
  • Over 600 returnee families in Sa'ada received shelter.
  • Micro-economic initiatives benefited over 900 returnee families in Sa'ada.
  • 28,600 farmers in Amran received seed, fertilizer and tools.
  • Over 48,600 farmers were able to get 158,000 animals vaccinated and de-wormed in Sa'ada governorate.

Health care

  • Twenty hospitals and health centres in both the north and the south (including Abyan and Sa’ada) received medicines and medical items.
  • The health ministry received 500,000 doses of measles vaccine.
  • An ICRC surgeon and an operating-theatre nurse supported three hospitals in Aden during fighting in Abyan, then moved to Al Razi. They took part in 70 of the 284 operations and trained surgical department staff.
  • The ICRC is supporting four government-run physical rehabilitation centres in Mukalla, Aden, Sana'a and Taiz, which are treating 37,000 people.
  • 49 orthopaedic technicians and physiotherapists received on-the-spot training, while eight orthopaedic technicians were sent to India for training.

Water and habitat

  • 400,000 people gained access to safe drinking water in Abyan, Aden, Lahj, Taiz, Amran and Sa'ada through repairs to water networks.
  • 30,000 IDPs in Amran and Sa’ada governorates received water deliveries by road.
  • 5,000 detainees benefited from repairs to prisons in Sana'a and Aden.
  • Repairs to hospitals and health facilities, including Al Razi (Abyan), created 735 beds.

Challenges

Access

Access is far from easy, as last year’s kidnapping of one of our colleagues confirmed. Although that incident ended well, the tragic death of a Yemeni staff member was very hard for all of us. Despite those incidents, our work continued without interruption.

Detainee welfare

The ICRC had access to 5,400 detainees during 2012. These include those we visited at a number of places of detention under the responsibility of the Yemeni government and 72 Yemeni soldiers held by Ansar Sharia, whom we visited in early 2012. During Mr Krähenbühl’s meeting with President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi he asked that the ICRC be able to consolidate and expand visits to places of detention under governmental control. The ICRC also enables Yemeni families of persons detained in Guantanamo to communicate with them. Just this week, a father had a video call with his son. This was the first time he had seen him or spoken to him for 12 years.

Conduct of hostilities

The ICRC is monitoring how the parties carry out their military operations. Our particular focus is on respect for civilians by the Yemeni and US forces, and by non-State armed groups. In particular, we are emphasizing the need to distinguish between fighters and civilians, especially during artillery, air and drone attacks.

Yemen is one of the very first countries to have publicly pledged support for the “Health Care in Danger” campaign, which aims to enhance protection for medical personnel and facilities. Such support constitutes welcome acknowledgement that attacks on ambulances, their misuse and threats against health personnel are taking their toll and must stop, in Yemen and elsewhere.


Photos

Pierre Krähenbühl 

Pierre Krähenbühl
© ICRC
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ICRC operations director Pierre Krähenbühl discusses humanitarian issues with the local community. 

Sa’ada, northern Yemen.
ICRC operations director Pierre Krähenbühl discusses humanitarian issues with the local community.
© ICRC / P. Youssef