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Yemen: thousands struggling to survive without proper shelter

07-01-2011 Operational Update

In the north of the country, displaced people and residents suffering the effects of the last round of fighting, which ended almost a year ago, are still hoping to improve their living conditions.

Most are sheltered in tents or living in the ruins of their homes. Winter is taking a toll on their well-being.

Intermittent tensions have become part of their daily lives. Over the past three months, unrest has been on the rise in the northern governorate of Sa'ada, at times resulting in armed confrontations. This situation has been further aggravated by very cold weather, which makes it even more difficult for people to go about their daily lives. If crops are damaged, the very livelihoods of people who are already among the most disadvantaged could be destroyed.

"Some of the displaced may have considered returning to their home areas at some point," said Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen. "But the situation is so uncertain that many have elected not to do so, even though that means they will be living in tents during the cold winter months."

"Other displaced people have been living in camps, and still others with relatives, for years now. They do have basic services available to them, but that is not enough to replace the stability and security of the home," he added.

Together with the Yemen Red Crescent Society, the ICRC is striving to assist thousands of people living in six camps for the internally displaced, and elsewhere. While basic services – water, food, shelter and primary health care – are being provided for over 100,000 people, thousands of people outside the camps are still left without proper shelter. Even more than those within the camps, they are suffering from temperatures that often drop below freezing.

In the governorate of Amran, south of Sa'ada, thousands of people still depend on ICRC-provided humanitarian aid, including clean water which is supplied regularly to some 11,200 displaced people and residents. To help preserve the livelihoods – and therefore the lives – of more than 10,000 vulnerable people in Harf Sufyan and al-Asha districts, in northern Amran governorate, the ICRC has treated 43,000 animals against screw worms, a deadly parasite that can be transmitted to humans. While most people in the governorate earn their living from agriculture, the majority of those living in Harf Sufyan, al-Asha and elsewhere in the north of Amran rely on livestock as their main source of income. The sale of one sheep or goat, for example, fetches the equivalent of between 80 and 100 US dollars, which can put food on the table for a family of seven for up to two weeks. A cow is worth at least 500 US dollars, not counting the value of the milk she produces. So far, at least 10,200 people have benefited from the treatment campaign against screw worms.

In the southern parts of the country, the ICRC is closely monitoring the situation on the ground. In recent months, it has been providing access to water and supporting health-care facilities in the governorates of Aden, Abyan, Lahj and Shabwa. It has also been helping refugees, mainly from the Horn of Africa, to maintain contact with their families abroad, and providing food and other essentials for migrants in deportation centres.

The ICRC remains committed to easing the suffering of people adversely affected by armed violence in the country.

Food and other essential items

Between October and December, the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent:

● distributed one-month food rations – wheat grain, rice, beans, oil, sugar and salt – to around 52,000 displaced people and residents in the governorate of Sa'ada, including in the old city of Sa'ada and in the Aal Sa'oud and Mandaba areas in the north-west of the governorate;

● arranged for around 15,000 internally displaced people in Amran governorate's Bani Sureym, Houth, Khamer, Raydah and Namat Soufi districts and Khaiwan camp to receive one-month food rations;

● supplied blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets and other basic household items to over 22,600 displaced people and residents in Sa'ada and Amran governorates, and distributed additional blankets to over 5,400 people to help protect them from the cold;

● supplied basic household items and hygiene kits to more than 1,300 migrants in detention and deportation centres.

Clean water


● delivered water by truck and supplied diesel for water-pumping stations to ensure that some 100,500 displaced people and residents in Sa'ada governorate had access to clean water; in Sa'ada city alone, approximately 80,000 people, including 8,000 in camps, benefited;

● continued to supply some 11,200 displaced people and residents in the Khaiwan al-Hamra, Khaiwan al-Medina, Khamer and Harf Sufyan districts of Amran governorate with clean water;

● is currently running several projects in the governorates of Aden, Lahj, Shabwa and Abyan, in the south and south-west of the country, designed to make water available to some 21,000 residents through water trucking and/or upgrades to water networks.

Health care

Over the past three months, the ICRC has:

● maintained its support for 11 Yemen Red Crescent health-care facilities in Sa'ada governorate, where over 37,000 consultations took place;

● donated medical-examination beds, medicine trolleys, desks, chairs and other furniture, as well as medicines, intravenous fluids and other medical items, to a new Yemen Red Crescent health centre in Sa'ada city, and supplied basic medicines to Al-Mahader and Majz health-care centres, south-west and north-west of Sa'ada city, respectively;

● in cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent and the Ministry of Health, organized a two-day primary health-care workshop for 15 staff from Al-Jumhouri hospital, Majz and Al-Mahader health centres in Sa'ada governorate, and held a first-aid training course in the governorate of Amran for 30 Yemen Red Crescent volunteers, all of whom were given first-aid kits to help them respond effectively to medical emergencies;

● continued to support the two health-care facilities of Khaiwan al-Hamra and Khaiwan al-Medina, in northern Amran governorate, which together provided more than 5,700 consultations, and provided them with medicines, intravenous fluids and other medical items;

● donated intravenous fluids and anti-malarial medicines to the Yemen Red Crescent branch in al-Dhale', the Ibn-Khaldoun Hospital in Lahj, Al-Razi Hospital in Abyan and the office of the Ministry of Health in Shabwa, in the southern part of the country;

● provided support for four first-aid training courses organized by the Yemen Red Crescent's Aden branch in cooperation with the Ministry of Health for over 50 nurses and paramedical personnel working with the ministry's emergency and ambulance services.

Detainees and refugees


● resumed visits to detainees in July 2010, after an interruption of several years, to assess the conditions in which they are being held and the treatment they receive. Findings and recommendations are discussed solely with the detaining authorities in line with standard ICRC procedures;

● organized, for the first time in Yemen, video-teleconference calls between families and their relatives held at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Four families used the service;

● continued to organize ordinary telephone calls between Yemeni nationals held in Guantanamo Bay or in Afghanistan and their families in Yemen. Around 50 families used the service;

● exchanged more than 600 Red Cross messages (containing brief family news) between families in Yemen and relatives detained in Guantanamo Bay, and around 40 Red Cross messages between families in Yemen and relatives detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon;

● exchanged over 550 Red Cross messages between refugees from the Horn of Africa and their families;

● succeeded in determining the whereabouts of nine people who had gone missing, and restored contact between them and their families;

● continued to provide food, hygiene items and basic health-care items in cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent for around 500 people awaiting deportation;

● continued to work in cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent to enhance the reading and writing, sewing, embroidery, weaving, handicraft, computer skills and other abilities of between 200 and 300 women held in 10 prisons in the country.

For further information, please contact:
Rabab Al-Rifaï, ICRC Sana'a, tel: +967 1 213 844 or +967 711 94 43 43
Sébastien Carliez, ICRC Geneva. tel: +41 22 730 28 81 or +41 79 536 92 37
Dorothea Krimitsas, ICRC Geneva. tel: +41 22 730 25 90 or +41 79 251 93 18


Amran governorate, north of Yemen. The ICRC treating animals against screw-worms in Khaiwan and Hawazat. 

Amran governorate, north of Yemen. The ICRC treating animals against screw-worms in Khaiwan and Hawazat.

Amran governorate, north of Yemen. The ICRC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, treats animals against screw-worms in al-Asha. 

Amran governorate, north of Yemen. The ICRC, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, treats animals against screw-worms in al-Asha.