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One-Quarter Million People Displaced in Northern Yemen

Lisa Schlein | Geneva 29 January 2010

The UN refugee agency reports the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is deepening. It says one quarter of a million civilians now have been displaced since the conflict in northern Yemen flared up in 2004. This is more than double the number of homeless people recorded last August.

The UN refugee agency reports around 7,000 people every week are arriving in Hajjah province in northern Yemen. It says these people mainly come from Saada province, which is bearing the brunt of the conflict between the government and al-Houti forces.

UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says people are fleeing because they can no longer cope, they can no longer sustain themselves in the midst of the fighting in Saada province.

"Despite three existing IDP camps in Hajjah governorate which are continually being expanded, the lack of adequate shelter is a major concern for UNHCR," he said. "Many displaced Yemenis are in makeshift sites which have mushroomed along the roads leading to the camps. The situation is equally difficult in the neighboring Amran province where the vast majority of IDPs is either staying with relatives and friends or renting their accommodation. UNHCR and its partners are providing tents to displaced families in host communities to increase the living space within the housing compounds."

Mahecic says the Yemeni government, UNHCR and other agencies are distributing aid. But, he says it is getting increasingly difficult for the displaced to make ends meet. He says they are having a tough time getting such basic services as health and education.

He says the UNHCR is sending five trucks loaded with tents, mattresses, blankets, kitchen sets and hygiene items to the areas of refuge on Saturday. He says the supplies will be enough for 2,000 people.

The UNHCR is asking donors to support its humanitarian operation in Yemen by contributing to its $35 million appeal.

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