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Northern Yemen: population faces increasingly cold winter

19-02-2009 Operational Update

Thousands of conflict victims in northern Yemen still need humanitarian assistance. In Sa'ada, more than 6,700 internally displaced people were still sheltering at the end of December in four camps. As temperatures drop, at times to less than two degrees Celsius, people need decent shelter.

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©ICRC/M. Al-Qadhi/ye-e-00661 
Al Humeidan village, Northern Saada. Distribution of basic household items by the ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society  

Difficult weather conditions have also put additional strain on many small communities scattered throughout the mountains. As a result of the conflict, water-treatment services are not as widely available as in the past, and getting clean and potable water has become a daily challenge for most ordinary people. Several basic health-care facilities have been abandoned because of the lack of security, and others have been destroyed. Those that are still operating often lack the equipment and supplies they need.

The ICRC has been assisting the victims of the conflict in Sa'ada governorate since February 2007. However, poor security conditions and tribal fighting have often made it difficult to reach those most in need of help.

In November, the ICRC increased its presence in the Amran governorate north of Sana'a, with the aim of better responding to the needs of people adversely affected by the last round of fighting.

The ICRC is providing residents and displaced persons with food, essential household items, clean water and medical care. Aid distributions have recently taken place in Al-Mahdah, south of Sa'ada city, and in Dahyan and Al Humeidan, north-west of Sa'ada city.

 Food and other essentials for conflict-affected people in Sa'ada governorate  

By the beginning of November 2008, almost 26,000 people had received dry food rations and more than 1,300 had received essential household ite ms.

The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society continue to assess the needs of the local population in the districts of Sa'ada governorate most affected by the fighting, in particular Haydan, Dahyan, Majz, Sahar and Al-Safra. Assessments have also been carried out in Al-Harf, a town in the Amran governorate on the main road between Sana'a and Sa'ada.


 Access to clean water  

Clean water continues to be a serious concern for Yemen as a whole, and especially for conflict-affected people in the north. Many communities do not have direct access to water because tanks and pumping stations have been damaged or destroyed. In November and December, the ICRC:

  • improved the water and sanitation system in the six camps for displaced people in and around Sa'ada, by increasing the storage capacity to 144 cubic metres and by upgrading a borehole and water distribution system in Al-Anad, the biggest camp;

  • supplied equipment and provided technical support in cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent for victims of the Hadramaut floods;

  • continued repairing a 12-kilometre water network damaged by the fighting in Dahyan town, north-west of Sa'ada city, and building a 200 cubic-metre water tank, which is expected to serve 20,000 inhabitants;

  • continued to carry out similar projects for some 8,700 inhabitants in Al-Areda, Al-Humeidan, Al-Sari, Al-Mazroh, Al-Hadee and Sudan villages north-west of Sa'ada city;

  • carried out repair work on health facilities in Sudan, in Sa'ada governorate, and Al-Harf, in Amran governorate;

  • installed eight incinerators in mobile clinics in camps for displaced people in Sa'ada and in health-care centres in Sudan and Al-Harf;

  • assessed needs in Haydan, in the Marran mountains in south-western Sa'ada governorate, and in Al-Harf, in Amran governorate.

 Support for health-care facilities  

For displaced people in camps and in remote areas in the north, access to health care is difficult because some facilities were damaged or destroyed in the conflict. The ICRC is providing medical supplies for primary health-care facilities and other providers of health care in conflict areas with the help of the Yemen Red Crescent and the Ministry of Public Health and Population. In November and December, the ICRC:

  • reopened a health-care unit serving a population of at least 47,000 in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Population in Al-Harf, in Amran governorate. The ICRC provided financial support for the renovation of the three-room facility, which it supplied with basic medicines and other items, including blood-pressure cuffs, a scale, dressing materials and furniture;

  • provided basic medical supplies for nine health units in Sa’ada governorate covering the needs of more than 28,800 residents and displaced people;

  • donated medical supplies to Sa'ada town’s main hospital, covering the needs of approximately 38,000 residents and displaced people;

  • organized and supplied four mobile clinics in the Sa'ada camps for the displaced that carried out some 7,400 consultations, of which more than 2,100 were for children;

  • provided transportation and covered the cost of treatment for almost 100 patients referred to private and government hospitals for secondary health care;

  • supported health education sessions carried out by the Yemen Red Crescent for women and children living in camps for displaced people in Sa'ada.


 Physical rehabilitation programme  

The ICRC supports three physical rehabilitation centres, one in Aden run by the Ministry of Social Affairs, and the others, in Mukalla and Sana'a, run by the Ministry of Health and Population. In December, the ICRC began providing support for a mobile clinic in Sa'ada. In November and December:

  • over 2,300 patients benefited from various services offered at these centres, which include the delivery of 180 prostheses and 450 orthoses;

  • the ICRC continued to help prosthetists-orthotists upgrade their skills at three state-run centres by covering the costs of a three-year training programme for seven students.

 Restoring and maintaining family links  

The ICRC enables Yemeni families to restore and maintain ties with relatives held at US facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay through Red Cross messages and telephone calls.

An ICRC delegate based in Yemen carried out his third visit this year to persons detained in Guantanamo Bay. " Some wives of people held there have not heard their husbands'voices for seve n years, and there are children who have never met their fathers – their only link to their loved ones in Guantanamo Bay is by the telephone calls we help to organize. I have never felt so happy and yet so sad, all at once, " he said.

The ICRC also continues to help asylum seekers and refugees, mostly from the Horn of Africa, to locate family members abroad and restore contact with them.

  • A total of 280 Red Cross messages were exchanged between people held in Guantanamo Bay and their families in Yemen.

  • Around 120 Red Cross messages were exchanged between families in Yemen and their detained relatives in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

  • The ICRC facilitated a second round of telephone calls between Yemeni nationals held in Guantanamo Bay and their families in Yemen, and a third round of calls between detainees in Afghanistan and their families in Yemen.

  • A total of 620 Red Cross messages were exchanged between refugees from the Horn of Africa and their families in Yemen.

  • The ICRC succeeded in determining the whereabouts of five missing persons in November and December and restored contact between them and their families.

 Assistance for women in prison  

For the seventh year in a row, the ICRC has been helping to develop skills such as reading, writing, sewing and embroidery among women held in 10 prisons. Some 340 women are currently learning these skills.

" More than 300 female detainees learn new skills every year. In 2001, this was happening in only one prison in Yemen; by the end of 2008, however, thanks to cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent and the Prison Authority, skills development was taking p lace in 10 governorates, " said Salem Naser, an ICRC staff member involved in the project since its launch in 2001.

In December, a sixth annual workshop was held in cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent and the Prison Authority to train 36 Red Crescent volunteers in methods of adult education and in dealing with detainees.


 Assistance to foreign nationals  

As people keep pouring into the country, the Yemeni authorities are having to cope with an increasing number of people awaiting deportation. In cooperation with the Yemen Red Crescent, the ICRC is continuing to assist those held at the immigration detention facility in Sana'a. Food and hygiene and basic health-care items are still being provided for over 200 people.


 Promoting international humanitarian law  

In recent years, the ICRC has been working in cooperation with the National Commission for the implementation of international humanitarian law, the parliament, government ministries, universities, schools, NGOs and others to spread knowledge of international humanitarian law.

In November, a four-day workshop on teaching international humanitarian law organized in Taiz in cooperation with the Ministry of Education was attended by 32 teachers from 16 schools. That same month, a two-day workshop on humanitarian law was organized in Sana'a in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior and the Police Academy. Twenty-three police personnel from nine governorates participated.

The ICRC currently has 88 staff based in Yemen – 48 in the capital Sana'a, including 11 expatriates, and 40 in Sa'ada, including seven expatriates.

The ICRC has been working in Yemen since 1962.

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