Yemen: faint hope amid further violence

07-02-2012 Operational Update No 12/01

Despite political progress and, in some places, relative calm, Yemen as a whole remains in the grip of turmoil. Violence continues to disrupt the lives of ordinary people and efforts undertaken to help them. The ICRC, with clear priorities, is determined to improve people's lives.

Yemen's capital, Sana'a, was relatively calm as the New Year began. In many other parts of the country, however, especially in the governorates of Sa'ada, Hajjah, Abyan and Aden, a rising tide of violence took the lives of hundreds of civilians. Despite some progress on the political scene, the overall humanitarian needs of the population are on the rise, as the beginning of the transitional period has not yet resulted in economic improvement. The year-long demonstrations and the conflict have taken their toll on the entire economy and have massively disrupted infrastructure, which will need months if not years to be fully operational again. Against this strained background, tens of thousands of families who had to flee violence in the north, centre and south are still living in camps, mosques or schools, relying on humanitarian aid to survive.

Recent clashes in Sa'ada governorate caused many casualties. "Deteriorating security is having a devastating effect on the humanitarian situation. Access to health care and water throughout the governorate remains a major concern for us," said Ishfaq Khan, the head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Sa'ada. "We managed, with difficulty, to reach most of the areas we are concerned about – Dammaj, for instance – in late December. We evacuated wounded people, foreigners and dead bodies, in addition to delivering food and other items to around 7,000 people. However, the violence is making it very difficult for our staff to reach other areas, such as Kitaf."

In Sa'ada town, the situation has been calmer since the beginning of the year. Some of the families displaced during past conflicts are now returning to their home villages. More than 4,000 returnees have been given food, other essential items and travel compensation enabling them to go back home. In recent weeks, around 4,500 displaced people living in camps have received ICRC food rations. In addition, a food distribution in Sa'ada's old city was completed last week. Altogether, the ICRC has brought aid to more than 26,000 people in Sa'ada over the past few weeks in cooperation with community leaders. Also in the north of the country, around 250 displaced people in Al Ashah have been given such items as blankets, tarpaulins, kitchen sets and hygiene parcels.

"During the past few months, needs have arisen not only in Sa'ada governorate but also in many other places in the country," said Eric Marclay, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen. "Shortages of electricity and other sources of energy, the insufficient water supply, the high prices of basic foods, and inadequate access to health care and medicines are serious concerns. Without robust humanitarian action and economic support, the situation could become even worse for thousands of people over the coming weeks."

"Our priority for the moment is to bring aid to places throughout the country where it is urgently needed, and to obtain access to Kitaf, Arhab and other areas," he added.

In Abyan and Aden, daily clashes and explosions continue to disrupt the lives of civilians. Aden has been the scene of several targeted attacks. Thousands of people displaced from Abyan are still in Aden and Lahj, living in difficult conditions without being able to return to their homes. In Lahj, 30,800 people who fled Abyan received food rations, mattresses and blankets distributed by the ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent Society volunteers. "Another top priority for us is to further expand our activities in Abyan," said Mr Marclay. "For the third time, we distributed food to almost 155,000 internally displaced people and residents. We also distributed food donated by the World Food Programme to around 18,500 children in Ja'ar, Al Hosn and Bateis. We are doing everything we can to cover the most pressing needs and ward off further displacement."

Focused support for health-care facilities

During the past month, the ICRC has continued to deliver medicines, mainly for internally displaced people, to health-care facilities.

In Sana'a, the ICRC donated primary drugs to Yehes field hospital and first-aid items to other facilities.In Sa'ada and Amran, ICRC medical specialists held a two-day training course on drug management for doctors, medical assistants and nurses working in four ICRC-supported health-care facilities. Following recent clashes in Aden, Abyan and Taiz, an ICRC surgeon operated on six critically wounded patients in Al Naqib hospital.

A lifeline of clean water

The ICRC arranged for 350,000 litres of clean water to be delivered by truck to 5,000 civilians in Sa'ada city and to 8,500 displaced people in camps. In Amran, it delivered over 140,000 litres of clean water to nearly 9,800 people in Khaiwan Medina, Al Gobbah, Al Ghallah and Harf Sufiyan.

A 200-kilowatt generator and four pumps donated by the ICRC to the Aden water board will make it possible to distribute clean water to around 30,000 people.

The ICRC also made available 35 family tents and five water storage tanks for 135 people in Al Ashah district (Amran governorate).

The ICRC carried on repairing the water network in Al Qetat, serving 1,500 people, and a water tank in Tulumus serving another 30,000 people. It is also repairing wells in two mosques in Aden and in another two mosques in Abyan, and in Al Rawda hospital in Taiz. Also, it continued to repair and upgrade the kitchen of the Criminal Investigation Department in Sana'a.

Visiting detainees and helping them maintain contact with their families

Within the past month, ICRC delegates have visited over 180 detainees to monitor the conditions in which they were being held and the treatment they were receiving.

The ICRC also organized 29 telephone and 19 video-conference calls and delivered 52 Red Cross messages between persons held in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Bagram detention facility in Afghanistan or Fort Suse in Iraq and their families in Yemen.

For further information, please contact:
Dibeh Fakhr, ICRC Yemen, tel: +967 711944343
Bijan Frederic Farnoudi, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 21 730 2180 or +41 79 5369259



Sa'ada, Yemen. A man walks through an area destroyed during recent fighting.
© Reuters / K. Ali Al Mahdi