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YEMEN: IDPs beyond the reach of aid agencies

SANAA, 12 January 2010 (IRIN) - Thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the northern Yemeni governorate of Al-Jawf, some 270km east of Sanaa, have not yet been reached by humanitarian agencies, according to local officials and aid workers.

The head of the NGO coordinating body in the governorate, Hassan Hadra, has urged humanitarian aid agencies to immediately send relief to about 13,000 IDPs in the area.

"These IDPs fled their homes in Amran, Saada and Al-Jawf governorates and are sheltering in tents [dotted around the area]," Hadra told IRIN from Al-Hazem, capital of Al-Jawf Governorate.

Hadra earlier told marebpress.net that more than 850 families sheltering in the al-Mabdaa area of the governorate had received no assistance since fighting between al-Houthi rebels and government forces flared up again in the summer of 2009.

He said the IDP situation in Al-Jawf was worsening by the day, with children badly hit by unusually cold weather. Two children had died in the al-Mabdaa area as a result of the cold, he said.

Giancarlo Cirri, a World Food Programme (WFP) representative in Yemen, told IRIN on 10 January that about half of the IDPs in Al-Jawf Governorate were beyond reach.

"WFP estimates based on available information suggest that there could be as many as 12,500 IDPs scattered around Al-Jawf - meaning that some 6,000 persons are currently out of reach," he said.

Cirri also said there were concentrations of IDPs in Bart al-Enan and Kharab al-Marashi districts. "The humanitarian country team continues to request for access to these two districts in order to assess the situation and provide immediate relief to vulnerable families," he said.

WFP and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency had stockpiled food in Al-Hazem. This could be distributed immediately once access is granted, he said.

Over 90 tons of food distributed

Some 91 tons of food, including wheat, pulses, oil, sugar, and salt, had been distributed to more than 4,500 IDPs in the Al-Mutammah, Al-Hazem, Al-Matoon, and Khebb Al-Sha'af districts of Al-Jawf, according to WFP. Also, high energy biscuits had been distributed to children under five to boost their micronutrient and kilocalorie intake.

John Holmes, UN emergency relief coordinator and head of the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, said on 11 January: “Due to severe access and communication constraints, we have very little concrete information about the conditions for civilians and IDPs inside the conflict areas. We will continue to push for improved access and hope to be able to gain a clearer picture of the needs in those areas.”

He urged the humanitarian agencies to be prepared for a long-haul effort in Yemen. "The relief effort must continue to focus on improving conditions for the increasing number of IDPs as well as host communities; and on those trapped in Saada Governorate where the worst of the fighting is taking place," Holmes said.

Around 200,000 IDPs are currently registered for assistance, mainly women and children, but less than a quarter of the total estimated IDP population is in camps, while the rest are staying with host families and communities, or settling spontaneously in areas with little basic infrastructure or clean water, he said.

Shia al-Houthi rebels in northern Yemen, in a bid for greater autonomy, have been fighting government forces intermittently since 2004.


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


Copyright © IRIN 2010
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.
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