Yemen: ordinary people bear the brunt of the fighting

08-06-2011 Operational Update

Four months of civil unrest have taken their toll, with dozens of people killed or wounded. The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent are evacuating the wounded and the dead in Sana'a, and helping to supply water to the population. Elsewhere in the country, they are providing first aid for people affected by the violence.

"Because of the fighting, it has often been difficult for medical personnel to reach certain parts of Sana'a," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen. "Whenever there has been a moment of calm, dozens of people have been calling the ICRC, asking for help transferring the wounded to a hospital and recovering the bodies of the dead."

Since 4 June, joint ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent teams working in and around Sana'a have retrieved some 20 dead bodies and transferred 5 injured people to hospitals. On 7 June alone, 7 bodies were recovered from al-Hassaba, in the north of the capital. Overall, four ICRC staff and some 20 Yemen Red Crescent volunteers have taken part in these operations.

"Now more than ever, we are determined to carry out our neutral and impartial humanitarian activities in Sana'a and elsewhere in the country," said Mr Marti.

People living day by day

"Sana'a is no longer what it used to be – a lively city crowded with people and vehicles throughout the day, and filled with brightly lit shops open until late at night. There is now a high degree of tension in the streets," said Mr Marti. People are living day by day, stockpiling food and water for any crises that may arise, staying in their homes out of fear of crime, and sending away their women and children to live with relatives in safer locations.

"People are in a constant state of alert in Sana'a and elsewhere in the country," added Mr Marti. "Blasts and gunshots were being heard every day until recently. Everyone was afraid that their home would be the next to be hit by a stray bullet or by something even more terrifying. Although an unusual calm has descended on the city, the nervousness and tension remain palpable."

Emergency power and water supplies

Because many employers are closing down their enterprises, large numbers of jobs are now on the line and Yemenis are struggling to make ends meet in whatever way they can. In addition to all the other problems faced by an already struggling population, electricity has become a rare commodity throughout the country – so much so that most people are forced to spend their evenings in darkness. "The country is also in the grips of a long-term water shortage that leaves people feeling constantly anxious and concerned about whether they will have enough clean water at the end of each day," explained Johannes Bruwer, the ICRC's head of the water and habitat department in Yemen.

Over the last weekend, the ICRC provided the Sana'a Water and Sanitation Corporation with two generators installed at two water-pumping stations in the capital to reinforce the existing network. This has helped supply over 270,000 residents with basic emergency water.

Providing aid no less difficult outside the capital

The effects of the civil unrest and the daily constraints that come with it are not limited to Sana'a. Medical personnel and Yemen Red Crescent volunteers have also been encountering difficulties in their efforts to provide assistance in other parts of the country. According to Mr Marti, "this is one of the reasons why we regularly remind all those involved in the current situation in Yemen of the responsibility they bear in ensuring that the wounded have access to necessary and often life-saving care."

The ICRC is exerting every possible effort to address the urgent needs of the population wherever they may arise. It works in partnership with the Yemen Red Crescent, and maintains offices in Sana'a, Sa'ada, Amran and Aden in order to be able to provide humanitarian assistance as effectively as possible.

Other ICRC emergency activities

Over the past month, the ICRC also:

  • donated 12 first-aid kits to the medical committees in the field hospitals of Sana'a and Mukalla, seven dressing kits to the Science and Technology Hospital in Sana'a and Al-Razi Hospital in Abyan, and a set of drugs to Al-Razi Hospital;
  • replenished 100 first-aid bags belonging to the Yemen Red Crescent branches in Sana'a and Aden, and provided their Abyan branch with 10 first-aid kits;
  • organized, in cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent, one first-aid course to train trainers for around 20 instructors at the medical field hospital in Sana'a, and another for 26 of the hospital's first-aid staff.

The German Red Cross:

  • supplied and replenished a total of 120 first-aid kits for the Yemen Red Crescent branches in Taiz and Seyoun, and provided 300 Red Crescent caps to help identify the volunteers on the field;
  • donated six stretchers and 20 Red Crescent flags to the branch in Seyoun.

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


An ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent team retrieved approximately 20 dead bodies from the southern part of Sana'a following heavy fighting on 3 June. 

An ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent team retrieved approximately 20 dead bodies from the southern part of Sana'a following heavy fighting on 3 June.
© ICRC / ye-e-00751


A wounded civilian is transported at a makeshift clinic outside Sana'a University
© Reuters / A. Awad


Sana'a. In cooperation with the Water and Sanitation Corporation, the ICRC installed two generators at the Sab'een and Shumaila water pumping stations.
© ICRC / ye-e-00752


Families flee their homes in a neighbourhood close to where fighting is taking place in Sana'a
© Reuters / A. Awad