In war-torn northern Yemen, UN official assesses needs of 150,000 displaced

Displaced people in al-Hamraa camp for IDPs in Amran Province, Yemen (September 2009). Photo: Adel Yahya/IRIN

14 September 2009 – A senior United Nations humanitarian official is on a four-day visit to Yemen to assess the needs of tens of thousands of people uprooted by armed conflict in the north as the world body seeks to arouse international donor awareness to the crisis.

“The displaced people, and the communities hosting them, are deeply vulnerable,” Rashid Khalikov, Director of the New York section of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said on arrival on Friday.

OCHA has already voiced alarm at the lack of donor response to the crisis, which has seen some 150,000 people driven from their homes by fighting between Government forces and rebels in Sa’ada and Amran governorates. As of today, the $23.7 million emergency ‘flash appeal’ the UN launched 12 days ago has not received a single cent.

“For some of the IDPs [internally displaced persons], this is the second or third time that they have been forced to flee,” Mr. Khalikov said. “They have little or no means of supporting themselves, and many of them have moved to areas where there is little basic infrastructure such as clean water sources.”

He is visiting areas where IDPs have settled and meeting Government officials and humanitarian actors to better understand the challenges of providing aid. “At the moment it is hard for us to have a comprehensive picture because of the continued insecurity, and we have very little concrete information about the conditions that the affected population is living in,” he said.

Where access is possible, assessments show that the most urgent needs are food, water and sanitation, essential domestic items and health care.

“We are deeply concerned at the current lack of funding for the flash appeal,” Mr. Khalikov said. “We urgently need the international community’s support to prevent this situation from deteriorating even further.”

UN agencies are using funds from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), set up to finance sudden-onset or under-funded crises, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has approved a $2.5 million loan pending responses to the flash appeal.

In camps in Hajjah governorate, work to instal communal latrines supplied by the district authorities is continuing and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has delivered 10 additional water tanks. A shipment of 25,000 blankets, 6,000 kitchen sets, 6000 plastic sheets and 300 tents arrived in Aden, southern Yemen, from Dubai on Tuesday and have now been cleared by customs.

As of 8 September, 170 metric tons of food had been distributed to 14,917 IDPs in camps in Hajjah and Sa’ada town, and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has completed one month's food distribution for all 12,404 IDPs registered around Hajjah.


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