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YEMEN: Aid agencies say humanitarian situation could worsen in north

SANAA, 24 October 2007 (IRIN) - Aid agencies are concerned that as tension looms between government forces and Shia rebels in the northern Saada province, near the border with Saudi Arabia, following sporadic clashes between them, the humanitarian situation in the area could deteriorate.

According to Mahfoud al-Kadam, an information officer with the Medical Charitable Association (MCA), 1,200 families (about 7,500 people) are still displaced and of them, 2,100 people are living in camps in a Saada district. "The rest live with host families. Their houses have been destroyed."

Al-Kadam said the MCA has distributed aid donated by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), including relief medicines, soap, water containers and kitchen utensils. In all, he said, 2,000 families in Sahar, Majz, and al-Safra districts benefited from the assistance.

Al-Kadam also said they had treated 2,665 people in three districts: "Diseases treated included respiratory system inflammation, intestine inflammation, anaemia and malnutrition." He added that some people had suffered psychological problems as a result of the clashes.

He added that the war-affected areas were in need of fixed health facilities, instead of mobile ones. “The available health centres cannot deal with the citizens’ health problems. As the winter begins, common diseases could spread," Al-Kadam said.

Iman Monqar, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Sanaa, the capital, expressed concern about the water situation in Saada. She told IRIN that the water network in the province needed to be repaired as it was totally destroyed during the war. "We provided a generator for the water station in Saada city as there was pressure on using the station. Now we are working on the water network in remote areas," she said.

Latest clash

The latest major clash erupted on 10 October between government forces and followers of Shia rebel leader Al-Houthi, despite the mid-June peace agreement following mediation by the government of Qatar. Several people, including one soldier, were killed. According to Saada residents, sporadic clashes still occur between the army and the rebels.

According to the June peace agreement, the government is to reconstruct the war-affected areas after rebels came down from the mountains and surrendered their weapons; the government is to help displaced families return home, reconstruct destroyed houses and release detainees from Saada. However, the rebels complain that the government has not started meeting these conditions.

On 12 October, Yahya al-Houthi, a member of parliament and a brother of the rebel leader, Hussein al-Houthi, said in a statement that the army was planting landmines and farmers had become unable to gather firewood and fodder or continue with their daily routine as a result. He said one woman lost her leg when a landmine exploded and another landmine killed a number of grazing sheep.

Officials in Saada province contacted by IRIN refused to comment.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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