Yemen: Responding to growing needs amidst deteriorating security

09-04-2014 Operational Update

As the security situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate, access to communities fleeing from armed conflict and in need of humanitarian assistance has become increasingly difficult. In this complex environment, the ICRC strives to strike a balance between security and responding to the needs of those affected.

ICRC delegates distribute bedding as part of their efforts to improve living conditions in a deportation centre in Sana'a. Hundreds of migrants are stranded at the centre, waiting to go home. © ICRC/Basheer Al Selwi 

“Secure and unconditional access to populations caught in the fighting in different areas of the county remains a big challenge, particularly in areas such Al Jawf and Maarib, Abyan, Shabwa and parts of Hadramaut,” said Cedric Schweizer, head of the ICRC delegation in Sana’a. “In the past few months, we have often had to rethink our ways of working so that we can operate safely in an increasingly insecure environment,” he added.

As a result, the ICRC in Yemen has recently closed its office in Amran.

“The ICRC will continue to respond to humanitarian needs in Amran governorate, as long and as much as the security situation allows us to do so,” explained Schweizer, “but it is important that all actors in the governorate, and across Yemen, understand and accept the ICRC's role, as a purely humanitarian organization, in alleviating the suffering of those caught up in the sporadic fighting and violence, irrespective of their religious and political beliefs, or of their race or gender.” He added, “It is also important for all in Yemen to understand, that the ICRC emblem is used for protection and identification of our staff, and has no religious connotation whatsoever.”

Bringing aid to people facing hardship

In January 2014, the ICRC evacuated the last group of casualties from Dammaj, and helped retrieve the bodies of 37 persons on both sides. 

Dammaj, northern Yemen.
In January 2014, the ICRC evacuated the last group of casualties from Dammaj, and helped retrieve the bodies of 37 persons on both sides.

Between January and March 2014, the ICRC managed to assist communities which had lost their income as a result of displacement – for example, distributing essential items such as blankets, cooking utensils, sleeping mats and hygiene parcels to some 150 households in Ghail Bawazir, Hadramaut governorate.

In addition, to help families sustain their livelihoods and make ends meet, the ICRC also provided temporary work opportunities for more than 500 people through its cash-for-work scheme in Abyan. This helped to rehabilitate an irrigation canal in the area. Another 300 people benefited from the same scheme in Hajrat Fallah in Saada, through the cleaning of a hand-dug well.

Also in Abyan, nearly 340 farmers who had lost their honey-producing business due to displacement received 17 honey extractors to help them kick-start income-generating projects and thus maintain their families. In Taiz, eight families received grants to support livelihood projects.

Assisting hospitals and physical rehabilitation centres

Health-care services in some rural and conflict-prone areas work hard to meet the needs of the civilian population. Support from the ICRC helps to renovate premises and train staff.

Between January and March 2014, the ICRC health teams provided ten health-care facilities in Saada, Amran, Sana’a and Abyan governorates with a range of medical items, including  dressing modules and drugs, thereby ensuring better access to health care for more than 215,000 patients.

To help hospitals and health-care facilities better respond to emergencies, the ICRC also organized first aid and other medical training for over 150 specialists – ranging from midwives to nurses, Ministry of Health personnel, armed groups and security forces – in the southern governorates of Abyan and Al Dhalea, Amran governorate, and Arhab district in Sana’a.

During this period, the ICRC helped evacuate 59 people injured during fighting from Dammaj in Saada governorate to the capital, Sana’a. In addition, the mortal remains of 37 people were handed over to their families and community representatives.

The ICRC continues to support four government-run physical rehabilitation centres in Mukalla, Aden, Sana'a and Taiz. Between January and the beginning of March 2014, over 13,000 people benefited from physical rehabilitation services, while a further 6,000 received physiotherapy treatment. The ICRC also distributed over 60 wheelchairs and nearly 300 crutches to patients.

Providing clean water and sanitation

Access to clean water remains a significant problem in Yemen, and rapid depletion of groundwater reserves has made things worse. Through its water projects, the ICRC works to rehabilitate supply systems for both drinking water and irrigation in rural areas, and to improve water and sanitation infrastructure in urban environments.

Between January and March 2014, in collaboration with local authorities, the ICRC completed 2 projects in Abyan and Lahj, improving urban and rural water supply systems, benefiting more some 38430 people.

The expansion of the physical rehabilitation centre in Mansura district, Aden, was also completed, assuring treatment for up to 30 people per day. An additional 40 people per day will benefit from the completion of a second phase of work at the Taiz physical rehabilitation centre. The preliminary design stage of a new centre in Saada was also completed.

Visiting detainees and maintaining family ties

In the first three months of 2014, the ICRC conducted seven visits to different places of detention in Sana’a, Taiz and Aden, during which the treatment and living conditions of over 1,900 detainees were monitored. These visits aim to ensure that detainees, whatever the reason for their arrest and detention, are treated with dignity and humanity.

Tribal leaders sign a handover certificate during an ICRC-facilitated operation during which people held by the Al Hirak Southern Movement were exchanged for people held by the Yemeni armed forces. 

Al Dhalea, southern Yemen.
Tribal leaders sign a handover certificate during an ICRC-facilitated operation during which people held by the Al Hirak Southern Movement were exchanged for people held by the Yemeni armed forces.

The ICRC also finished the construction of a new washing area and a playground for children in the Deportation Centre – installations that will benefit more than 500 migrants.

The ICRC also assisted the prison authorities in the establishment of four clinics in remand prisons in Sana'a, which will provide around 1,000 detainees with access to primary health care, further improving the conditions of detention.

In its role as a neutral humanitarian actor, the ICRC facilitated an exchange of some 30 people deprived of their freedom between the Southern Hirak movement and the Yemeni Special Security Forces in Al Dhalea, southern Yemen.

To help separated families keep in touch, the ICRC distributed over 900 Red Cross messages between migrants and refugees from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea living in Yemen, and their loved ones. The organization also helped maintain family ties between detainees in Guantanamo and loved ones in Yemen through some 75 Red Cross messages, 40 phone calls and 50 video-conferences. A further 13 video-conferences were conducted between Yemeni families and relatives detained in Bagram, Afghanistan.

Promoting compliance with international humanitarian law

Reminding warring parties of their obligation to protect civilians is a fundamental part of the ICRC's mandate. Between January and March 2014, the ICRC organized a two-day workshop with 57 Islamic charities in Yemen, during which it discussed the code of conduct for humanitarian organizations operating in Yemen.

To facilitate safer access to health-care services, the quick passage of ambulances and the protection of health-care personnel, the sick and wounded, in addition to all health-care premises, the ICRC also discussed security in the field with state and non-state actors, including over 70 officers from the security forces in Sana’a and surrounding areas.

For further information, please contact:
Marie Claire Feghali, ICRC Sana'a (in Arabic, English and French), tel: + 967 73 607 19 67
Sitara Jabeen, ICRC Geneva, tel: + 41 79 536 9231

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