29 January 2010 As the humanitarian crisis in Yemen continues to deepen, the United Nations refugee agency today said that it estimates that 250,000 civilians have been uprooted since clashes in the country erupted in 2004, with the number having more than doubled since just last August.
In the past six weeks, some 7,000 people have streamed into Hajjah province each week from Sa’ada province in the north, which has been rocked by renewed violence between Government forces and Al Houthi rebels.
The fighting has moved from Sa’ada city and its surroundings towards the northwest of the country, Andrej Mahecic, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva, adding that people fleeing their homes in recent weeks have mostly been from the Razeh, Ghamr and Saqayn districts.
“Another push factor is the collapse of coping mechanisms – people simply cannot sustain themselves any longer in Sa’ada province,” he noted.
Although the three existing camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in neighbouring Hajjah governorate are continuously being expanded, UNHCR is worried about the lack of adequate shelter, as many of the uprooted are living in makeshift sites which have mushroomed along the roads leading to the camps.
The agency and its partners are providing tents to displaced families living in host communities to increase living space within housing compounds and is also working to set up a transit centre pending the identification of a suitable campsite.
“The Yemeni Government, UNHCR and other aid agencies are distributing aid, but making ends meet is getting increasingly difficult for the displaced populations as well as access to basic services such as health and education,” Mr. Mahecic stressed.
Most of the IDPs have left nearly all of their belongings behind, including cattle – the pillar of their livelihoods and main source of income.
The fighting has also increased the number of IDPs seeking refuge in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, to 12,000.
Five UNHCR trucks loaded with tents, mattresses, blankets, kitchen sets and hygienic items for 2,000 people are set to cross Saudi Arabia into northern Yemen tomorrow, making it the third such convoy by the agency.
“UNHCR is calling on donor countries to continue their support to our operation in Yemen to be able to cope with the situation and to provide much-needed assistance,” Mr. Mahecic said, adding that the agency is appealing for $35 million this year to help these IDPs and refugees.
On Wednesday, the top UN political official said that only a broad approach that incorporates improving the economy, battling poverty, promoting stability and fighting terrorism will solve the underlying causes of Yemen’s many problems.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the High-Level Meeting on Yemen, held in London, that the UN is ready to assist the impoverished Arab nation make progress on the humanitarian, developmental and economic fronts. The country is one of the poorest in the region.
“The many challenges faced by Yemen can only be addressed in a systemic and comprehensive way,” Mr. Pascoe said, stressing that the Government and its people must be at the centre of this approach.
“But it is clear that the international community will need to support the Government’s efforts to tackle the underlying causes of the country’s difficulties. This support is fundamental in sustaining the country’s long-term stability and security, countering the terrorist threat, boosting its economy, meeting its development needs and fighting poverty.”
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