Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said that 200,000 people in Yemen have been displaced by ongoing violence, and that the growing number of refugees is straining the ability of aid agencies to shelter and care for those forced to flee their homes.
The refugee agency reports that thousands of civilians in north Yemen are fleeing to neighboring provinces in a desperate search for safety, shelter and assistance, as the current wave of fighting between the government and the al-Houthi rebel group is entering its sixth month. It added that it is fast running out of space and money to care for them.
“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,” said UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic.
“These newly displaced people bring stories of intense clashes in Razeh, Saqain and Sahar districts and report dozens of civilian casualties as a result of air strikes and heavy fighting,” Mahecic added, as quoted by Voice of America. “UNHCR is not present in the conflict area and has no independent confirmation of these reports.
“We now estimate that some 200,000 people have been affected by the conflict in Yemen since 2004, including those displaced by the latest escalation which erupted in early August last year,” he continued.
The spokesman noted that camps for the displaced are stretched to capacity, and aid resources are quickly becoming depleted. News24 reports that one camp at Al Mazrak in the Hajjah province is now home to 21,000 people, double its intended capacity, and others were also being populated quickly and in dire conditions.
“The shelter situation is equally dire in Amran province where most of the arriving IDPs are staying with host families or renting places. Over the New Year’s week alone, more than 5,000 IDPs arrived to Amran City,” Mahecic said. “The acute lack of shelter and accommodation is creating tensions between the displaced and the local population. In the absence of an immediate and feasible camp option, UNHCR is planning to set up a transit center in Amran as an interim and temporary solution,” he concluded.
The UN has issued a US$177-million appeal on behalf of all UN agencies working in Yemen; so far, less than one percent of that has been received.