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Yemen: population still suffering effects of fighting

11-05-2010 Operational Update

Nearly three months after a ceasefire took effect, thousands of displaced people either hesitate or are unable to return to their homes. The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent are striving to help them and to reach other people in need in conflict-affected areas.

   
©YRCS 
 
April 2010, Sa'ada governorate. The YRCS, supported by the ICRC, distributes mattresses, blankets and other items to residents of the Old City of Sa'ada, which was severely affected by the fighting.  
      

People living in the north, in war-torn Sa'ada and Amran governorates, are desperately trying to rebuild their lives disrupted by months of intense fighting. Since the ceasefire agreed in February, many people have returned home after having spent several months with host families, friends or fellow tribesmen. However, around 22,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) remain in the six camps managed by the Yemen Red Crescent Society with ICRC support.

The last round of fighting exacted a heavy toll in terms of lives lost, injuries, displacement, loss of livelihood, and the destruction of civilian housing, farms and vital public facilities such as health clinics and water wells. Not only does the devastation make it difficult for the civilian population to return home and rebuild their lives, it also complicates matters on the ground for the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent as they try to reach more conflict-affected areas in the governorates of Sa'ada and Amran.

" Many people just want to return home, live in a safe environment, work their land and put their children in school, " said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the ICRC's head of delegation in Yemen. " Only last week, more than 850 people decided to leave the camps in Sa'ada and return home. Many will probably not make it that far, however, and even if they do, they may well find that their homes, and also their schools and other public buildings, were damaged or even destroyed in the several rounds of fighting. "

The situation is not much different for thousands of people displaced from Amran governorate who are eager to resume their previous lives but are not sure what they will find when they return home. While the number of people going back to Harf Sufyan district, the area worst affected by the conflict, is slowly increasing, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent have so far been unable to go there and assist returnees and the residents who stayed put during the fighting. There are concerns about the humanitarian situation in the district, as it has been cut off from its main markets for several months and many water points, clinics and other public facilities, as well as private homes, were destroyed in the armed conflict. Although clearance operations are under way, mines and other unexploded munitions littering villages and agricultural lands remain one of the biggest obstacles to civilians resuming their lives and restarting basic food production.

Many people in Sa'ada or Amran governorates who have been adversely affected by the conflict prefer to stay in areas where food, water and health care are available. Others simply have no means of transportation available to them and therefore have no choice but to stay where they are.

For humanitarian organizations, access to the areas worst hit by the conflict remains difficult, even after the ceasefire, for security reasons. Despite the difficulties, however, Yemen Red Crescent and ICRC personnel continue to provide tens of thousands of people with such urgently needed relief aid as food and water, shelter materials, essential household items and basic medical care. Both organizations are doing their utmost to reach even more people in need.

  Food and other essential items  

Over the past two weeks, the ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent have:

  • distributed one-month food rations (wheat grain, rice, beans, oil, sugar and salt) to some 10,200 peo ple living in the Old City of Sa'ada;

  • distributed essential household items to more than 700 displaced people living in camps managed by the Yemen Red Crescent in Sa'ada city;

  • provided new mattresses and blankets for nearly 15,000 displaced people in camps to replace those damaged by heavy rain.

    

  Clean water  

Over the past two weeks, the ICRC has:

  • provided more than 2.8 million litres of potable water each week to around 80,000 displaced people and residents in the greater Sa'ada area;

  • furnished diesel fuel needed to run pumps providing clean drinking water for 17,500 people in Al Azgool;

  • worked together with the Yemen Red Crescent to provide water, sanitation and shelter for about 20,500 displaced people in six camps in Sa'ada;

  • restarted rural water projects in Al-Hamati and Al-Khodad in Sa'ada governorate which had been on hold since August 2009 because of the fighting;

  • continued building 12 water points and repairing a borehole and an elevated water tank for more than 3,500 people in Al-Oqab, south of Sa'ada;

  • supplied some 15,000 displaced people and the families hosting them in the villages of Wadi Khaiwan, Houth, Khamer, Al-Gubba and Al-Hamra and nearby areas with water, either by truck or by delivering diesel fuel to pumping stations.

  Health care  

Over the past two weeks, the ICRC has:

  • provided the Yemen Red Crescent health-care unit in Sa'ada city with basic medical items enabling it to provide more than 2,000 consultations for conflict-affected people. The 10 decentralized Yemen Red Crescent primary health-care units provided nearly 3,000 consultations each week;

  • donated two medical examination beds and a basic medical supply kit to the Abu Jubara health centre east of Sa'ada city to cover the needs of 1,000 people for a period of three months;

  • continued to replenish the medical supplies of two government health-care centres in Wadi Khaiwan, in northern Amran governorate, enabling them to carry out more than 600 consultations.

  For further 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 9318