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Yemen: concerns mount as situation worsens

12-11-2009 Operational Update

As the armed conflict in northern Yemen escalates further, reportedly spilling over into Saudi Arabia, the ICRC is becoming increasingly concerned about the plight of civilians and is stepping up its activities.

The plight of civilians is worsening as the conflict extends along the Yemeni-Saudi border and intensifies. The ICRC calls on all parties involved to fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law. It urges them in particular to take all necessary precautions to spare the civilian population and to allow unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid. All persons detained in connection with the conflict must be treated humanely. The ICRC stands ready to visit any such persons and to provide other services in its capacity as a neutral and impartial humanitarian organization.

   
   
 
  An IDP camp in Baqem district. 
     

In Sa'ada and Amran governorates, internally displaced people (IDPs) and residents continue to suffer the effects of armed conflict. Many left their homes in the first weeks of the conflict and are now completely dependent on the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society for water, food and other essentials.

In the north-western part of Sa'ada governorate, in areas bordering Saudi Arabia (Baqem district), the number of people taking refuge in Mandaba village has been on the rise, with 140 to 280 people being registered by the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent every day. The steady influx of displaced people prompted the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent to set up a new camp in Mandaba, which started a month ago with 2,500 people and now has around 6,000. The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent had already been running three camps in and around Sa'ada. Altogether, the four camps are currently hosting around 11,000 people.

" The fact that a new camp for displaced people had to be set up near Baqem is proof that the situation on the ground is not improving in humanitarian terms, " said Abdul Majid Al-Shaer, the ICRC's acting head of sub-delegation for Sa'ada. " People are travelling long distances to reach the relatively safe area of Mandaba and they arrive there exhausted. They need water, food and shelter, which are currently being provided by the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent. "

Despite the best efforts of the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent, which have provided aid of various kinds for around 140,000 people over the past three months, it is becoming ever more difficult to provide or obtain health care in the north of the country.

" It is very difficult for people in need of basic or e mergency medical care to reach whatever functioning health-care facilities are left, " said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the ICRC's head of delegation in Yemen. In Sa'ada city and nearby areas, only one of the three main hospitals is fully functional; the two others are unable to provide normal services because of the security situation. As a result, it is hard for patients to seek help and hard for the ICRC to deliver medicine and equipment.

" The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent transfer patients to facilities in other areas whenever possible, but at times we are not able to because of the fighting, " added Mr Marti. " We strongly urge the conflict parties to permit deliveries of humanitarian aid and to allow medical personnel and vehicles to bring life-saving assistance. "

 
 
 
  Water, food and shelter  

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

  • distributed one-month food rations (wheat, beans, sugar, salt, cooking oil and protein biscuits) to more than 9,500 people at or near Mandaba camp, in the Baqem district of north-western Sa'ada governorate near the border with Saudi Arabia. The food had been delivered to the area by the World Food Programme and handed over to the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent;

  • continued to deliver water by truck for around 6,000 displaced people in Mandaba camp;

  • supplied tents for some 6,00 0 displaced people in Mandaba camp and finished building another 20 latrines there to improve sanitation, bringing the total to 40;

  • provided some 7,000 displaced people and those hosting them in and around Sa'ada city with blankets, mattresses, jerrycans, soap and washing powder, and registered another 7,000 in the city who may be eligible for assistance;

  • continued to supply water in Sa’ada city to cover the needs of more than 85,000 residents and more than 18,000 displaced people inside and outside the camps in and around the city;

  • continued to deliver water by truck and to repair boreholes in Wadi Khaiwan, Bani Sureym and Khamer, in Amran governorate, for more than 11,000 displaced people and residents.

  Health care  

Urgently needed medical care continues to be provided for thousands of people, although the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent did have to suspend some activities in certain areas because of the fighting. The ICRC provides support for several Yemen Red Crescent health-care units and Ministry of Health and Population facilities in Sa'ada governorate, and continues to provide urgently needed support for two Ministry units in the governorate of Amran. Furthermore, it continues to monitor the needs of Sa'ada's three main hospitals.

Yemen Red Crescent and Ministry of Health and Population health-care units continue to provide basic services in the three camps for displaced people in and around Sa'ada city with ICRC support. Between 50 and 80 patients per day, mainly women and children, are being treated in Al-Talh, north of Sa'ada city, and Sam camps, south of the city. A smaller number are receiving treatment in Al-Ehsa', a smaller camp. The immunization of around 4,000 children under five years of a ge has largely been completed.

The Yemen Red Crescent emergency clinic in Sa'ada city has expanded its capacity because of a shortage of medical facilities elsewhere in the governorate. Over the past week alone, it carried out more than 1,700 curative consultations.

In cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent, the ICRC has:

  • delivered a two-month supply of medicines to the Yemen Red Crescent in Sa'ada city. A one-month supply was made available to support the Ministry of Health and Population clinic in the Jabal Marran area, west of Sa'ada city;

  • provided 70 to 90 consultations per day for around 6,000 displaced people, most of them women and children, in a health-care unit supported jointly by the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent in the village of Mandaba, in Baqem district;

  • supported five Yemen Red Crescent field health-care units in Al-Husn, Al-Azgool, Quhza, Al-Hadab and Al-Gharbi, south of Sa'ada city, which conducted around 2,500 consultations over the past month;

  • continued to supply two health-care centres in Wadi Khaiwan, in Amran governorate, with basic medicines covering the needs of an average of 250 patients per day, and with tents and furniture to increase consultation capacities.

  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