Yemen: growing concerns over unrest

05-05-2011 Operational Update

Over three months have passed since the outbreak of civil unrest in Yemen. As violence has spread, the casualty toll has increased steadily. The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society are determined to do whatever it takes to alleviate the suffering of the people.

"Dozens of people have been injured in a number of clashes in Sana'a and elsewhere," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the ICRC's head of delegation in Yemen. "Yemen Red Crescent volunteers and medical personnel have been caught up in the violence on several occasions, which has made it difficult for them to provide life-saving first aid where protests have occurred."

ICRC is renewing its appeal to both the authorities and the demonstrators to respect and protect the injured and all medical personnel, facilities and means of transport, and to grant safe passage to anyone in need of medical care. In addition, it is reiterating that all medical personnel and first-aid workers must exercise strict impartiality in treating the injured.

"Since February, we have been administering first aid and taking people with life-threatening injuries to various medical facilities," said Elias Manna', the head of the Yemen Red Crescent branch in Sana'a. "We have 60 first-aiders in Sana'a ready to be dispatched 24 hours a day. Nevertheless, any obstruction of our work could cost someone his life – that is why we are in constant contact with all those involved. We remind them of our neutral and impartial role so that they may let us get through to the injured."

The ICRC stepped in immediately at the beginning of the unrest to provide support for the Yemen Red Crescent in Sana'a and Aden, and has now widened the scope of its assistance to include at least two other major cities, Seyoun and Taiz, east and south of Sana'a, respectively.

While the unrest is widespread, some areas have remained calmer although the difficulties, from a humanitarian point of view, are far from over. It was only two weeks ago that some 80,000 residents of Sa'ada, in the north of the country, were without water for more than a week because of damage caused to the network. The ICRC had to take quick action to ensure that people had enough clean water while its water engineers repaired and replaced equipment.

Also in the north, in the governorate of Amran, the needs in terms of water, food and medical care of more than 11,700 residents and displaced people remain sizable. Although some ICRC activities intended to remedy the situation were delayed over the past month owing to tensions in the governorate and throughout the country, the organization continues to do its utmost to help.

ICRC emergency response

In April, the ICRC continued to support the efforts of the Yemen Red Crescent and medical facilities to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance in the capital Sana'a and elsewhere. In particular, the ICRC:

  • supplied 10 stretchers, over 50 first-aid kits and six tents to the Yemen Red Crescent in Sana'a and Aden for use at first-aid posts; it also supplied 40 stretchers, 20 first-aid kits and 80 aprons with the "star of life" logo to emergency ambulance services and medical committees in Aden governorate;
  • donated dressing materials and intravenous fluids to help treat victims of an explosion in the south-eastern governorate of Abyan who were taken to the "22nd of May Hospital" and al-Jumhouriya Hospital in Aden;
  • financed the running costs for April and May of 10 Ministry of Health ambulances in Aden city and provided them with dressing materials, first-aid bags and stretchers;
  • provided training in first aid, humanitarian principles, and safer access procedures in the field for nearly 500 Yemen Red Crescent trainers and volunteers in Sana'a, Aden, Taiz and Seyoun; it also provided training in first aid for 20 Ministry of Health ambulance service providers and 40 medical committees in Aden governorate.

Clean water

In a country known for its severe water shortages, supplying clean water to conflict victims remains one of the ICRC's top priorities. Over the past month, the ICRC has:

  • urgently replaced a dysfunctional generator with a new one at Tulumus water-pumping station to restore the availability of clean water to Sa'ada city's 80,000-strong population (including displaced people). The ICRC is in the process of repairing an additional backup generator damaged in recent fighting. During the weeks when the network was down, the ICRC transported 450,000 litres of water per day to ensure that the population survived;
  • continued to supply the 8,500 inhabitants of the six camps for displaced people in Sa'ada governorate with clean water on a daily basis;
  • continued to supply over 11,700 residents and displaced people in Amran governorate with 68,000 litres of clean water each day;
  • continued to make water available to some 21,000 local residents in the governorates of Aden, Lahj, Shabwa and Abyan, in the south and south-west of the country, by repairing water-supply networks;
  • upgraded 28 wells in mosques and public spaces in the city of Aden to ensure that clean water is available to the general population in case of shortage;
  • built four latrines and upgraded the water network in the Sana'a deportation centre for the 80 people detained there.

Health care

Over the past three weeks, the ICRC has:

  • provided medicines and other medical items to ensure that the three Ministry of Health centres in Sa'ada governorate, the Yemen Red Crescent health centre and 12 other health-care facilities in the governorate, including in the six camps for displaced people, could continue to function. Together, these primary health-care facilities carried out some 12,500 consultations during the first three weeks of April alone;
  • provided medicines and other medical items for the ICRC-supported health-care centres of Khaiwan al-Medina and Al-Harf in the north of Amran governorate. The centres carried out some 2,400 consultations during the first three weeks of April alone.

Food and other essential items

During the month of April, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent:

  • distributed two one-month food rations – wheat grain, rice, beans, oil, sugar and salt – to more than 10,000 displaced people in the camps of Aal Thabet, Mandaba and in Sa'ada city, in Sa'ada governorate, and provided nearly 6,200 displaced people with hygiene kits;
  • continued to support the Department of Animal Health in its efforts to control the spread of a screw-worm outbreak in Amran governorate by treating over 10,000 animals in April alone;
  • provided training for 14 technicians from the Department of Animal Health involved in the screw-worm treatment campaign.

Detainee-welfare and tracing activities

Over the past month, the ICRC:

  • carried out four visits to people in the custody of the Political Security Prison, the Central Prison and the immigration detention facilities in Sana'a. After each visit, findings and recommendations were conveyed confidentially to the detaining authorities;
  • organized nine video-teleconference calls and 22 telephone calls between families and their relatives held at the US detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Bagram, Afghanistan;
  • helped forward around 70 Red Cross messages (containing brief family news) between families in Yemen and relatives detained at Guantanamo Bay, and some 30 Red Cross messages between families in Yemen and relatives detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon;
  • helped exchange over 180 Red Cross messages between refugees from the Horn of Africa and their families;
  • succeeded in determining the whereabouts of four missing individuals and restored contact between them and their families;
  • continued to provide food, hygiene items and basic health-care items in cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent for 200 people awaiting deportation;
  • visited six women held in prison, and continued working with the Yemen Red Crescent to enhance their literacy, sewing, embroidery, weaving, handicraft, and computer skills.

For further information, please contact:
Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Sana'a: tel: +967 1 213 844 or +967 711 94 43 43
Hicham Hassan, ICRC Geneva: tel: +41 22 730 25 41 or +41 79 536 92 57

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