Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Yemen: 200,000 civilians homeless as fighting rages

Displaced Yemeni civilians queue for aid distribution in the north of the country

Thousands of people continue to flee as the latest round of fighting between Government and rebel forces in the Sa’ada province of northern Yemen enters its sixth month, said the United Nations refugee agency, which last month put the number of uprooted at 175,000 but now estimates that it could be higher.

“We now estimate that some 200,000 people have been displaced by the conflict in Yemen since 2004, including those displaced by the latest escalation which erupted in early August last year,” the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Andrej Mahecic, told reporters in Geneva.

The latest influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) – many arriving in the Hajjah and Amran governorates in the northwest – is straining already stretched shelter capacity and depleting aid resources in the area, UNHCR said.

Overcrowding in the camps is a major concern. The Al Mazrak 1 camp in Hajjah now hosts over 21,000 people – more than double its original capacity.

UNHCR is also concerned about the number of IDPs outside the camps.

“There are now huge makeshift sites along the roads close to the Al Mazrak camps. Shelling can be clearly heard in this area and it is a constant reminder of the ongoing conflict in the area,” Mr. Mahecic said.

In Amran province, many of the IDPs are staying with host families or in rentals. The lack of accommodation is creating tensions between the displaced and local populations.

UNHCR said it is planning to set up a transit centre in the area as an interim solution.

Meanwhile, a UNHCR assessment mission in December to the area of Baquim found a new wave of relatives and friends of IDPs arriving. Given that high prices of cooking gas have stopped shipments, the displaced are forced to collect wood and cut trees in the nearly mountains.

The agency said it will work with the Government and other partners to distribute aid to reach the population in need.

Source: UN

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