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YEMEN: Humanitarian situation in the north 'deplorable'

SANAA, 22 June 2008 (IRIN) - Living conditions for displaced civilians caught in ongoing clashes between government forces and a Shia rebel group in Saada Governorate, northern Yemen, have worsened as diesel and food supplies there are dwindling, according to an opposition party official.

"There is no electricity and no water as a result of the lack of diesel. The city [of Saada] has been immersed in darkness for four days," Abdul-Aziz Ali, head of the Information and Political Department at the opposition Yemeni Socialist Party office in Saada, told IRIN on 20 June.

According to him, the lack of diesel has also led to a decrease in agricultural produce in local farms. "Saada is known as Yemen's biggest orchard, but this war does not make it so," he said, adding that this and the fact that the Sanaa-Saada highway had been cut had led to huge rises in the prices of food and non-food items. "People cannot afford such soaring prices,” Ali said, warning of a bleaker humanitarian crisis should the situation not improve.

Displacement

While conditions in Saada deteriorate, the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is increasing, Ali said, but he could not give an exact number as he said there was an “extreme information blackout”. He said that most live in overcrowded camps inside and outside Saada city, where some were exposed to army bombing.

Others, he said, live with host families. "Three to four families live with a host family. One can hardly find a vacant house these days," Ali said. "The displaced families are living in very harsh conditions. The humanitarian situation there is deplorable. It is very hot and malaria has increased remarkably. What makes it worse is the lack of sufficient health care," he said, adding that they are in dire need of medicines.

Clashes renewed in May 2008 after the collapse of a Qatari-brokered peace agreement between the two warring parties. The fighting extended to Harf Sufian in the northern province of Amran, and Bani Hushaish district, 20km northwest of Sanaa city, Yemen's capital. Observers say these clashes are the fiercest since fighting first broke out between government forces and rebels in 2004.

Security authorities said the situation was under control as they had defeated the rebels in those areas, adding that the rebellion’s end was imminent. However, on 20 June, a statement from rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi's Information Office said fighting with government forces was continuing in Saada, Harf Sufian and Bani Hushaish.

It claimed that the army had destroyed hundreds of houses, killed a number women and children in Bani Hushaish and that there were fierce clashes between the two sides close to Saada city.

maj/ar/ed

Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Food Security, (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs

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Copyright © IRIN 2008
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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