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Yemen: civilians pay the price of mounting violence

27-10-2011 Operational Update No 06/11

In Sana'a, essential services such as health care, electricity, water and education have been deeply disrupted if not suspended outright. The priority of the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent is to save lives and bring relief by supporting first-aid efforts and medical facilities.

Population caught up in mounting violence

Over the past few weeks, there has rarely been a moment of calm in Sana'a. For everyone, it is difficult if not impossible to move about within the city, which is filled with armed men, checkpoints and roadblocks. "The sounds of gunfire and shelling have become part of the daily lives of Yemenis in the capital Sana'a and elsewhere in the country: the face of the city has changed drastically," said Eric Marclay, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen. "Hundreds of families have had to send their women and children to safer places, or had to leave their neighbourhoods and live in nearby villages or with relatives in other parts of the city. Some do not even know if their house is still standing." Power cuts, which can last for most of the day, and severe water shortages add to people's hardships.

Furthermore, fighting has been taking place in several residential areas and civilian properties, including some schools – which either interrupts the education of children or puts them at risk. Much harm could be avoided if weapons were kept out of public buildings. Dozens of people have been killed over the past few weeks and several hundreds injured as a result of ongoing confrontations. The ICRC continues to press those in charge to take every possible precaution to ensure that people's lives are spared.

"We are concerned that the violence in Sana'a and in other parts of the country has increased significantly," said Mr Marclay. "We are determined to do whatever it takes to ensure that people at least receive life-saving care."

In other major cities, such as Taiz, the unrest is either just as bad or even more worrying. Full-fledged armed confrontations have taken place in the north Sana'a neighbourhoods of al-Hassaba and Sofan, and in the governorate of Abyan, in the southern part of the country. In the north of Yemen, where the conflict in the governorates of Sa'ada and Amran has been interrupted since March, those affected are trying to find ways to get by without ICRC-provided humanitarian aid. But with infrastructure barely holding up after years of armed conflict, picking up the pieces of their lives is beyond what most people can achieve.

The ICRC is doing everything it can to bring aid, often vitally needed, to tens of thousands of people.

Health-care services: struggling to cope

"Because of the relentless and intensifying violence that has rocked Sana'a in recent weeks, the casualty toll has risen very quickly – as has the need for medical care," said Mr Marclay.

Roadblocks, closed streets and other obstacles have often made it difficult for first-aid and medical teams to reach the injured. "On several occasions, first-aid workers were prevented from approaching and evacuating casualties. Some first-aid and medical personnel have even been threatened or attacked. Medical facilities must be spared at all times, and they must provide treatment in an impartial manner," said Mr Marclay. The ICRC continues to remind all those involved of their responsibility to ensure that the injured and wounded have access to the care they require, and that medical and first-aid teams are allowed to carry out their life-saving work at all times.

Over the past month, the ICRC has continued to work hand-in-hand with various branches of the Yemen Red Crescent. In particular, it has helped their emergency-response teams administer first aid to over 1,600 injured people in violence-stricken areas.

ICRC and Yemen Red Crescent emergency-response activities over the past month

  • In Sana'a, with ICRC support, Yemen Red Crescent volunteers administered first aid to around 1,500 injured people, transferred serious cases to health-care facilities and retrieved over 50 dead bodies. In Abyan, al-Dhale' and Aden, they attended to a total of some 140 injured people and retrieved seven dead bodies.
  • In Taiz, the German Red Cross provided support for 30 Yemen Red Crescent volunteers who administered first aid to more than 100 injured people and took four dead bodies to hospitals. It also provided first-aid supplies for the local Red Crescent branch.
  • An ICRC surgical team operated on 30 critically wounded patients, all but three of whom had arrived from Abyan.
  • The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent distributed food and household essentials to over 66,500 people, many of whom were displaced, in Abyan and Lahj.

Other activities in Yemen


  • ensured that over 1,400,000 violence-affected people in Sana'a, Aden, Abyan, Lahj, Sa'ada and Amran governorates had sufficient quantities of clean water by upgrading wells in mosques, delivering water by truck, providing diesel for generators, and by other means;
  • supplied one-month food rations and hygiene items to 22,400 residents of Sa'ada's old city and to 7,000 people living in camps for the displaced, and two-month food rations and household essentials to over 1,700 formerly displaced people who returned to their home villages;
  • visited over 70 people detained as a result of the latest clashes in Sana'a to monitor their living conditions, and helped 14 families visit their relatives held in detention facilities in Sana'a, Taiz and Ibb;
  • organized 23 telephone and 12 video-conference calls between persons held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or Bagram, Afghanistan, and their families in Yemen.


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


7.10.2011. Young Yemenis at a school-turned-displaced-camp in Aden.  

7.10.2011. Young Yemenis at a school-turned-displaced-camp in Aden.
© Reuters

25.10.2011. Wounded anti-government protesters are being rushed to a makeshift clinic after clashes with police in Sana'a.  

25.10.2011. Wounded protesters are being rushed to a makeshift clinic in Sana'a.
© Reuters / K. Al Mahdi

Sana'a, 24.09.2011. The ICRC and YRCS team, responding to a call to retrieve dead bodies from Kentucky conjunction, the scene of violent confrontations. 

Sana'a, 24.09.2011. The ICRC and YRCS team, responding to a call to retrieve dead bodies from Kentucky conjunction, the scene of violent confrontations.
© ICRC / A. M. Ammar / ye-e-00754