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Yemen: ICRC warns that situation in north worse than ever, urges greater respect for civilians

25-01-2010 News Release 10/8

Sana'a/Geneva (ICRC) – As a result of the protracted conflict that has repeatedly flared up since 2004, the humanitarian situation in the north of Yemen is now worse than ever before.

  See also:
A serious humanitarian crisis in the making, press briefing with Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC's deputy director of operations, just back from a trip to Yemen.
  Urgent food aid in Sa'ada and Amran, operational update, 09.02.2010  

  ©Reuters/K. Al Mahdi    
Western Yemen. Displaced children 
Map: ICRC activities in Yemen in January 2010. 
  Download full map – PDF format (360 kb) 

The renewed fighting that broke out five months ago and recently spread to the border with Saudi Arabia has dramatically worsened the situation of an already beleaguered civilian population. If no immediate action is taken to counter this trend, the north of Yemen could slide into a long-term humanitarian crisis that would also hamper development efforts, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned today.

" The conflict in the north of Yemen has been neglected for far too long. The situation is made even worse by poverty and a lack of water and food, " said Dominik Stillhart, the ICRC's deputy director of operations, who has just returned from the country. " Most importantly, security conditions have continued to deteriorate, which has also made our work that much more difficult and dangerous. "

Civilians – particularly women and very young children – are the primary victims of the conflict. Many people are trapped by the conflict and without vital assistance as humanitarian organizations cannot reach them because of the fighting. Others manage to flee to safer areas, where as internally displaced people (IDPs) they often stretch the already meagre resources of the communities hosting them. Existing IDP camps are not always safe and sometimes have to be moved.

Ahead of the international conference on Yemen due to take place later this week in London, the ICRC urges the parties involved in the conflict and all those who can influence the situation on the ground to both respect and ensure greater respect for international humanitarian law – in particular, to spare civilians and to allow unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid . " With the international community promising to boost development aid for the country, it is vital that urgent steps be taken to provide effective protection for people adversely affected by the conflict and to allow them to receive the aid they sorely need, " said Mr Stillhart.

Since mid-August 2009, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society have assisted 150,000 people affected by the conflict. The two organizations have responded to the most urgent needs by providing around 75,000 displaced people in the governorates of Sa'ada and Amran with water, food and other essential items.

The ICRC has 140 staff working in Yemen, including 28 expatriates.

  For further information, please contact:
  Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Sana'a, tel: +967 1 213 844 or +967 711 94 43 43
  Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18