Saturday, 5 September 2009

Humanitarian crisis unfolds as fighting continues

By Nasser Arrabyee/05/09/2009

The warring parties in north Yemen failed Saturday to reach a temporary cease-fire for allowing relief organizations to reach thousands of displaced people who need urgent assistance.

The fighting resumed and intensified in many fronts only hours after the government announced a suspension of the military operations in response to calls by relief organizations that are denied access to inside the province of Sa'ada because of the nearly one month old war.

The Yemen-based UN resident coordinator Pratibah Mehta had suggested that the cease-fire should be for specific hours daily.

The government's Supreme Security Committee, which supervises the military operations, held responsible Al Houthi rebels for breaking the cease-fire. The government said Al Houthi rebels implemented attacks on troops in Al Malahaid and Harf Sufyan early Saturday despite their welcome of the cease-fire.

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the previous rounds of war are estimated at 100,000. Now, the relief teams do not have access to those who are inside the Sa'ada province because the rebels are blocking the road in Harf Sufyan area.

On September 2nd, the UN said in a flash appeal, it needs US$ 23.5 million to help about 150,000 Yemenis who were affected by the war, for the coming four months.

According to estimations of the relief organizations, about 50,000 more IDPs spilled to three neighbouring provinces of Hajja, Amran, and Al Jawf in the last round of war which erupted on August 10th.

Naseem Ur-Rehman, Chief Communication and Advocacy at the Sana'a-based UNICEF office, estimated the IDPs in Amran province at 28,000 and those in Al Jawf at 8,000 and those in Hajja province he estimated them at 16,000 IDPs. The IDPs are living now in camps or scattered dwellings and also with relative families.

"The IDPs are strangers in their own lands. They look visibly horror-stricken, they have come from very long way, the frightening experience of the lingering war stays with them in their eyes, and children are even more affected by the psycho-social trauma," Naseem told Gulf News Friday in Sana'a after he came back from a 4-day visit to Al Mazarak IDPs camp in Harad district, Hajja province.

"The camp, which is about 20 km from the town of Harad, is in a vast open space with few shrubs where summer sun shines very strong."

A total of 320 families (2000 IDPs) are in this camp, and about 16,000 are in scattered dwellings and host families.

It is not easy to deal with the conservative Yemeni families even in war circumstances.

"Privacy and independence is a big issue with the Yemeni IDPs. They are not like the Somalis or Ethiopians. Every family wants a tent for their own and this is extremely difficult to achieve," Naseem said.

Four UN agencies are working in Al Mazarak Camp to provide the IDPs with food and non-food needs.

The WFP provides high energy biscuits and other food stuff, UNICEF focuses on the water and sanitation, the UNHCR provides non-food materials such as tents and mattresses, and the WHO provides the health and medial services.

Many other local and international organizations are also participating in relieving the IDPs.

Two more camps are scheduled to be in operation starting from today Saturday September 5th, for about 10,000 IDPs in Khaiwn area, Amran province, according to the government's committee in charge of rescuing the IDPs.

The Minister of Public Health and Population, Abdul Kareem Rase'e chairs this committee which coordinates efforts of the local and international relief organizations.

These two camps will receive those IDPs displacing from Harf Sufyan.

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