Yemen: escalation of violence in the south takes its toll
03-05-2012 Operational Update
In recent weeks there has been a noticeable increase in violence and a deterioration in the security situation in several southern governorates. In Abyan, fighting between government forces and Ansar Al Sharia has intensified. In Aden and Lahj, security concerns have been mounting.
Recent clashes in Lawdar (Abyan) have left hundreds of casualties, and a new wave of displacement emerged in the wake of the fighting. Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes for safer places either in Abyan itself or in Aden or Lahj. In Khanfar, people are leaving their homes because they fear more violence.
"The current security situation has hampered our access to certain areas, mainly in Abyan, and is making our work more difficult," said Yehia Khalil, the head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Aden. "The intense fighting has slowed our aid distributions in Abyan. We are concerned about the situation in Lawdar, to which we hope to soon gain access so that we can respond to humanitarian needs."
After lengthy negotiations with all parties to the conflict, the ICRC teams re-entered Abyan governorate on 17 April to finish distributing food and other items to 36,000 people displaced in Khanfar district. In addition, ICRC water engineers resumed the installation of pumps that will provide potable water for around 200,000 people in the district.
"The strictly neutral, independent and impartial nature of our humanitarian work, and the fact that we are in dialogue with all parties to the conflict in Abyan – and indeed all over the country – are the reason we have access to the most severely affected areas in the governorate. These factors also made it possible for us to visit 72 soldiers detained by Ansar Al Sharia," said Mr Khalil. "Our priority for the moment is to be able to provide emergency response in terms of health, food and other assistance for people adversely affected by the violence – especially for those who have been displaced, but also for needy residents who are hosting displaced relatives."
Assessing humanitarian needs in Arhab
ICRC staff have been in Arhab to assess the humanitarian situation and the needs of civilians. "This district has been the theatre of heavy fighting for several months. It took us some time to get in, but now we can reach the population directly," said Eric Marclay, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, who took part in the assessment. "Here again, wide-ranging negotiations bore fruit. Understanding and acceptance of the ICRC's neutral and independent approach on the part of all involved enabled us to enter the area and get a clearer picture of people's needs." The ICRC met with representatives of civil society in Arhab and, for the fourth time, delivered basic medical items to the field hospital. "We will soon return to meet other needs, especially in terms of water and economic security," added Mr Marclay.
Assistance for flood victims in the north
In addition to enduring the hardship caused by fighting, Yemen has been lashed by widespread heavy rain. In Al Harf district especially, the deluge completely swept away many houses and caused major damage to others. Most of the people affected lost nearly everything they had, including livestock and basic household essentials. The ICRC provided around 1,000 of them with food rations, tents, tarpaulins, blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, hygiene items and jerrycans.
During the past month, ICRC also:
- distributed food rations to more than 2,100 internally displaced people in camps in Sa'ada;
- treated and dewormed more than 60,000 animals relied on by hundreds of families in the districts of Majz, Razih, Adh Dhahir and Shida as their main source of income;
- conducted, jointly with the Ministry of Agriculture, a six-week training course in animal health attended by 18 people from eight districts of Amran governorate;
- delivered around 500,000 litres of water per day to eight camps housing displaced people in Sa'ada, to displaced people in Mandabah and to residents of Sa'ada town. Another 115,000 litres of clean water were distributed to around 1,200 returnees and displaced people in Al-Harf town, Amran governorate;
- donated 500,000 vaccines to the Ministry of Health for the vaccination campaign launched in the country against miseales after a severe outbreak of this disease;
- visited detainees held under the authority of the Political Security Organization in Aden and Taiz, of the Criminal Investigation Department both in Sana'a and Aden, and of the First Armoured Division in Sana'a. The ICRC also visited the Yemeni detainees held under US authority in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. In addition, telephone and video-conference calls were arranged between Yemeni detainees held in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan and their families in Yemen.
For further information, please contact:
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Sana'a, tel: +967 711 944 343
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 41 or +41 79 536 92 57