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Yemen: ICRC operations continue countrywide amid heightened tensions

29-04-2013 Operational Update

The long-awaited National Dialogue Conference was successfully launched in Sana’a on 18 March. Meanwhile, political tensions, economic insecurity, social unrest and conflict continued to seriously affect all sectors of the population, leaving the poverty-stricken extremely vulnerable.

In order to be able to assist those in need, it is essential that the neutral, impartial and independent nature of aid agencies' humanitarian work, including that of the ICRC, be respected at all times.

The ICRC has been working in Yemen since 1962, assisting the vulnerable during times of conflict and instability. Among its current activities the ICRC is upgrading health-care facilities and assisting with the re-establishment of water supplies for communities living in conflict-affected areas of the north and south. Major reconstruction work on Al Razi Hospital in Jaar, which was damaged during the fighting in 2012, is ongoing.

Current assistance activities include support for the Ministry of Agriculture's animal vaccination campaign in Amran, which aims to help protect the livelihoods of poverty-stricken farmers throughout the governorate by immunizing up to one million sheep and goats.

As part of its mandate, the ICRC helps relatives separated by conflict keep in touch with each other. Families of Yemeni detainees being held in US-run detention facilities in Guantanamo and Afghanistan are able to maintain contact with their loved ones through phone and video calls as well as through traditional Red Cross messages via the ICRC delegation in Sana'a.

Between January and March, the ICRC carried out the following activities:


ICRC staff work with community representatives to deliver assistance in conflict-affected areas countrywide. This includes food, shelter materials, household supplies and other items. Displaced families returning home are supported with income-generating activities. Between January and March:

  • over 10,750 displaced and otherwise vulnerable people in Sa'ada and Abyan provinces received nearly 245 metric tonnes of food, including wheat, rice, sugar and beans;
  • one-off food rations were distributed to 210 families displaced internally within the country living in caves in Al-Manasseh area of Al-Bayda governorate;
  • household items were distributed to over 19,000 internally displaced people in conflict-affected areas of Al-Dhale, Abyan and Al Bayda governorates;
  • in Sa'ada and Sana'a governorates, 177 households headed by women received cash grants for income-generating projects, including garment and grocery shops, transport and animal husbandry;
  • over 341,000 sheep and goats in 10 districts were vaccinated with ICRC support to the Ministry of Agriculture's campaign to combat goat plague (peste des petits ruminants) in Amran.

Detainee welfare

The ICRC makes regular visits to places of detention to monitor conditions and the treatment of detainees. Where the authorities are unable to maintain prison infrastructure, the ICRC helps with renovations, the improvement of water supplies and other humanitarian assistance. The ICRC's tracing services help asylum seekers and refugees, mostly from the Horn of Africa, to locate and restore contact with family members abroad. Yemeni detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, and detainees in Yemen (including asylum seekers, refugees, and migrant workers held in Sana’a) keep in touch with their families through Red Cross messages and (for Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay) phone or video calls. Between January and March:

  • ICRC staff visited nearly 5,000 detainees during 12 visits in 10 detention facilities;
  • bedding, water filters, hygiene and recreational items were distributed to 1,800 detainees in Sana'a and Aden;
  • improvements were made to water and sanitation networks serving 970 detainees in Sana'a and Aden, and a recreational area was built for 100 detainees in Sana'a;
  • food and hygiene items were provided on a monthly basis to around 150 detainees in the Sana'a Deportation Centre;
  • nearly 170 tracing requests were processed, including 34 new ones. Seventeen missing people were located and put in touch with their families;
  • around 1,500 Red Cross messages were processed through the network of national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and the ICRC delegation;
  • 193 Red Cross messages were exchanged between detainees in Guantanamo and their families in Yemen;
  • detainees in Guantanamo and Afghanistan kept in touch with their families via 44 phone calls and 46 video calls arranged by the ICRC.

Water and habitat

ICRC water engineers and other staff coordinate their activities with the authorities, water boards and local communities in order to help improve water supply systems, assist with improving water supplies in camps housing displaced people, upgrade or build health-care facilities, and improve conditions in detention centres. Between January and March:

  • 20 projects were carried out in coordination with local communities and/or water boards to improve water supply systems for nearly 1.4 million people living in conflict-affected areas of Sa'ada, Amran, Sana'a, Taiz and Aden;
  • 188,000 litres of water were delivered every day by truck for almost 3,000 displaced people in Mandaba Camp and 9,600 people in conflict-affected areas of Sa'ada City;
  • new prison facilities and upgrades to existing facilities were completed in Sana'a and Aden, resulting in improved living conditions for some 900 detainees;
  • renovation and construction work continued at six health-care facilities in Sa'ada, Amran, Taiz and Abyan governorates.

Health and physical rehabilitation

The ICRC provides medical supplies, drugs and equipment to treat the sick and the wounded in hospitals, clinics and health-care centres in conflict-affected areas. ICRC staff also provide on-the-job training, conduct seminars and teach first aid. A surgical team supports the surgical unit in Al Razi Hospital in Jaar. The ICRC supports four government-run physical rehabilitation centres by providing components and other materials for prostheses, plus technical expertise. In cooperation with the Yemeni authorities, it also provides financial support enabling Yemeni technicians to go abroad for training. Between January and March:

  • medicines, medical supplies and on-the-job training were provided to 12 ICRC-supported health-care facilities each month;
  • training in pharmacy management was provided for 10 personnel working in health-care facilities in Sa’ada, and first-aid training was provided for 28 health providers in Sana’a;
  • the ICRC provided technical, logistical and financial support for Ministry of Public Health and Population vaccination campaigns against polio and measles in Amran governorate;
  • an ICRC surgical team continued to provide support for Al Razi Hospital in Jaar. They participated in 72 of the 267 operations performed in the hospital between January and March. The ICRC also provided drugs, medical supplies and equipment for the hospital's surgical department. In addition, the team of one surgeon, one operating-theatre nurse, one anaesthetist and one hospital manager conducted seminars on patient care and on-the-job training for anaesthetists, surgeons, nurses and staff doing sterilization;
  • four training sessions in first aid were organized for 70 people in Abyan and Taiz;
  • enough wound-dressing materials to treat 50 seriously or 500 slightly injured patients were given to hospitals in Abyan following violence in the governorate;
  • over 6,800 people with disabilities received services in January and February in the four ICRC-supported, government-run rehabilitation centres;
  • over 4,000 physiotherapy sessions were conducted in the four centres in January and February;
  • nearly 200 prostheses and around 2,800 orthoses were provided for patients in January and February.

International humanitarian law

The ICRC organizes information sessions on international humanitarian law for the Yemen Armed Forces and other weapon bearers. It also holds seminars, round tables and workshops on international humanitarian law for civil society audiences, including Islamic and tribal leaders, the judiciary and the media. Between January and March:

  • three participants from Yemen attended the ICRC's regional training course on international humanitarian law, held in Beirut;
  • 25 information sessions on international humanitarian law and the work of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement were held for the Yemen Armed Forces in Sana'a, Amran and Taiz;
  • a workshop on international humanitarian law and respect for medical workers, facilities and transport was held in Sa'ada. A similar workshop is planned for Aden.

Currently the ICRC has 57 expatriate and 210 national staff working in its main delegation in Sana'a, three sub-delegations in Sa'ada, Amran and Aden, and an office in Taiz.


Animal vaccination campaign. 

Animal vaccination campaign, Yemen.
Animal vaccination campaign.
© ICRC / J. Barry / ye-e-01006

Information session on the rules and principles of international humanitarian law for the military police of Al Mihwar. 

Taïz, Yemen
Information session on the rules and principles of international humanitarian law for the military police of Al Mihwar.
© ICRC / J. Barry

Bateis Health Centre consulting room. Up to 80 people a day come to the Centre for consultations. 

Bateis Health Centre consulting room. Up to 80 people a day come to the Centre for consultations.
© ICRC / J. Barry

ICRC-supported rehabilitation centre run by the Ministry of Health. An ICRC physiotherapist helps a man learn to walk with an artificial leg. 

Taïz, Yemen
ICRC-supported rehabilitation centre run by the Ministry of Health. An ICRC physiotherapist helps a man learn to walk with an artificial leg.
© ICRC / Getty / E. Ou / ye-e-00868

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