Yemen: more hardship for displaced people as fighting continues in Abyan

19-07-2011 Operational Update

The economic situation has been exacerbated by the civil unrest that has spread throughout the country and by the fighting in Abyan. The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent are doing everything they can to help people displaced by the fighting cope with everyday challenges.

"When armed confrontations erupted in the southern governorate of Abyan, thousands of people left hastily, with nothing but the clothes they were wearing," said Myriam El Kholi, the head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Aden. "At least half of them left on foot, walking an average distance of 80 kilometres all the way from Abyan's capital, Zinjibar, either to the neighbouring governorate of Lahj or to that of Aden."

Although thousands have managed to leave the area where fighting is being waged, many people have decided to stay behind and take refuge around the city of Zinjibar, away from the danger. "Many of these people are farmers, or shepherds who have taken their herds with them," said Ms El Kholi. "They sell their products and survive from day to day as best they can. Nevertheless, sooner or later they are likely to need humanitarian aid. Above all, they need security."

Providing aid for displaced people

Since mid-June, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society have provided aid for more than 17,500 people who have escaped from Abyan and settled in Lahj. As the fighting continues, an increasing number of people are fleeing their homes and heading to neighbouring villages or governorates. While some people are able to stay with relatives or friends, many others have had nowhere to go. Many people have taken shelter in schools or mosques in Aden and Lahj, but others are scattered across Lahj.

The ICRC believes that the people of Abyan – whether still in the governorate or in places they have fled to – are likely to need humanitarian aid for an extended period. In particular, they will need clean water – already in extremely short supply – and food, because their livelihoods have been interrupted by the fighting. To meet the increased need for emergency medical care, the ICRC has sent a surgical team to the area.

The already fragile economic situation has worsened considerably over the past few months as a result of the civil unrest that has spread throughout the country. The scarcity of fuel, gas and electricity and a sharp increase in the prices of several basic commodities are steadily taking a toll. These difficulties, combined with an increasingly unstable situation in the south of the country and temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius, are adding to the burden of the communities in Aden and Lahj hosting displaced people.

The ICRC has been providing assistance for displaced people in the governorates of Aden and Lahj for the past month. It is in contact with all entities involved in the fighting in Abyan and is attempting to assess the humanitarian situation there to the extent the security situation permits. Together with the Yemen Red Crescent, it is sparing no effort to bring aid to those in need.

Food and other emergency relief

Over the past month, the ICRC has:

  • in cooperation with Yemen Red Crescent volunteers, provided over 17,500 people displaced from the governorate of Abyan to neighbouring Lahj with hygiene items, one-month rations of wheat grain, rice, beans, oil, sugar and salt, and other essentials;
  • in Aden, in cooperation with the NGO Islamic Relief, Yemen Red Crescent volunteers distributed blankets and kitchen sets donated by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to more than 4,700 displaced persons living with host families;
  • prepared and organized more than 30 Yemen Red Crescent volunteers for relief operations in Lahj and possibly also in the governorate of Abyan.

Emergency health care

  • in Abyan and al-Dhale' governorates, the ICRC supported the deployment of Yemen Red Crescent emergency response teams with first aid material, transportation means and other items to help them provide first aid to over 100 injured and transfer them to health facilities, as well as retrieved the bodies of more than 120 dead;
  • trained some 15 Yemen Red Crescent volunteers from the southern governorates of Aden, Abyan, al-Dhale', Lahj and Taiz on how to retrieve and transfer the dead;
  • ICRC surgeons performed 40 operations over the past month, half of them on wounded patients transferred from Abyan to either al-Naqeeb or al-Jumhouriya hospitals in Aden, or to Ibn Khaldoun hospital in Lahj. The ICRC surgical team also assessed the needs of several hospitals in the governorate of Taiz, which is the scene of ongoing civil unrest.
  • In cooperation with the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and Population, the ICRC organized a four-day workshop on managing mass casualties. The workshop was attended by around 35 health ministry staff working in the emergency and surgical departments of hospitals in Abyan, Aden, Hodeida, Sana'a and Taiz governorates.

Clean water and sanitation

Over the past month, the ICRC has:

  • provided water storage facilities for 17 schoolhouses in Aden and Lahj where hundreds of people displaced from Abyan have taken refuge. In most of the schools, it also upgraded sanitary facilities
  • completed upgrades to seven of the 30 wells located in mosques in Aden city. The improvements included the installation of submersible water pumps and 2,000-litre water tanks at each mosque.

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



Lahj governorate, south of Yemen. ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent teams distributingfood and other essential items to displaced people.
© ICRC / M. Sheikh-Ali