25 August 2009 The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for “immediate and secure” access to people uprooted by escalating clashes – mostly children and women – between Government forces and rebels in northern Yemen.
“Children cannot be the innocent victims of conflict,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said in a statement issued yesterday, noting that the agency stands ready to assist civilians caught up in the conflict.
The humanitarian situation in camps, she said, is becoming ever more dire due to the lack of basic services, including safe water, sanitationThousands of more families remain trapped inside the conflict zone, unable to reach safer areas and nutrition.
“Thousands of more families remain trapped inside the conflict zone, unable to reach safer areas,” Ms. Veneman added. “They, too, are in urgent need of humanitarian support.”
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that insecurity is hindering aid agencies’ efforts to reach people affected by the fighting, which could ultimately uproot up to 150,000 people.
Including those displaced by previous violence, some 119,000 people in Sa’ada governorate have fled clashes between Government troops and Al Houthi rebels which are now spreading to the neighbouring Amran governorate.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today that the violence has affected 35,000 in the past two weeks alone.
Stepped up fighting in recent days “is worsening what is already a dire and complex humanitarian emergency,” agency spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.
“We are especially worried about the situation in Sa'ada city, the provincial capital of Sa'ada governorate,” he said, noting that a UNHCR team has reported that there has been no water and electricity there since 10 August.
Additionally, there is a fuel shortage and it is becoming increasingly perilous for people to reach markets to purchase food, Mr. Mahecic said.
Although UNHCR, which last week called on donors for an additional $5 million to respond to the latest emergency, has registered hundreds of newly displaced families, registration has been suspended due to security situation inside the city as well as a curfew.
Along with preparing new aid shipments, the agency is working with local authorities on the construction of a new camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) that could house up to 3,500 people.
According to OCHA, the violence has made it difficult for humanitarian workers to access the uprooted and accurately assess the situation, with the Sa’ada airport having been closed to all non-military activities.
Travel by land from Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, has been hampered by roadblocks, with UN agencies having evacuated non-resident staff from Sa’ada on 20 August.
The Ministry of Public Health has pointed to an alarming situation in Sa’ada, which borders Saudi Arabia and is a relatively remote and inaccessible region where many health facilities are currently not functioning.
According to an inter-agency assessment in Haradh, many IDPs were found to be living without shelter or water and are at risk of heat stroke and severe dehydration. Further, cases of diarrhoeal diseases and child malnutrition have been reported.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has airlifted 40 metric tonnes of high energy biscuits, distributing 10 metric tonnes of food aid to 7,000 newly-displaced people in Hajjah governorate. It started delivering a one-month ration of cereals, pulses, vegetable, salt and sugar on 23 August for 10,000 people.
For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided two trauma kits to the Ministry of Public Health, while a mobile health clinic was deployed last week.
The UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has released $1.2 million for rapid response measures to provide immediate assistance to 25,000 people displaced by previous fighting in Sa’ada.
A flash appeal, to fund life-saving assistance for up to 150,000 IDPs and other indirectly affected people, is being prepared.
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