Home > Resources > Monthly Updates > August 2010 > Yemen Update 

Northern Yemen remains volatile as violence persists

UNHCR/ L. Chedrawi

Around 30 people have been killed in incidents in northern Yemen in one week alone this July, according to media reports, and the situation remains volatile. Unrest persists despite an ongoing ceasefire of five months and the signing of a new 22-point peace agreement between the Yemeni government and Al-Houtis forces a month ago to attempt ending the violence and seek political dialogue.

At present, only around 14,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) have returned to their areas of origin out of Yemen’s displaced population of more than 324,000. Many fear retaliation or have no place to return to because of the destruction of houses and infrastructure. Many further IDPs are discouraged from returning due to the lack of basic services, such as health care, education and water supply in many parts of the Sa’ada governorate. also A third of the displaced are living in this region, the majority being hosted by local communities, staying with relatives, friends or neighbours.

Sa’ada City reports is slowly recovering as markets come back to life and some schools resume classes, thus allowing children who have lost nearly a year of education to return to classes. However health services remain limited as a number of facilities were destroyed by fighting and many health workers have yet to return.

Currently, access for UNHCR staff remains limited to Sa’ada City and nearby areas with scarce information available on the humanitarian needs beyond a 7km radius of Sa’ada City. UNHCR continues to advocate for secure and unhindered access to all communities affected by the conflict. Overall insecurity and a lack of access to hundreds of thousands of civilians, especially in northern Amran and Sa’ada governorates, continue to hamper the delivery of assistance.

Many homes in Sa’ada governorate have been damaged or destroyed and work needs to be done to rehabilitate these areas. In the village of Malahit, for example, most people have lost their livestock - a primary source of income. Damage to water reservoirs and tanks forces people to rely on river beds, or wadis, for water for all uses, resulting in poor sanitary conditions. With some 80 per cent of houses damaged or destroyed, many people have found shelter close to or in the ruins of their homes. Those who never left and returnees alike are in need of shelter and other relief. UNHCR is planning to start distributing return packages, including food, construction tool-kits, plastic sheets and hygiene kits together with other relief items in the coming weeks.

Stability and security are vital for largescale, safe, and voluntary returns to Sa’ada. Currently, however, landmines present a serious threat. UNHCR is especially worried about the safety of civilians who decide to return spontaneously. Mine clearing and removal of unexploded ordnance remain a top priority.

Meanwhile, the three IDP camps at Al Mazrak in Hajjah governorate, continue to host some 19,000 IDPs. Almost a year after conflict erupted, in August 2009, the situation of the displaced is becoming untenable, with most people having run out of resources.

UNHCR’s efforts to facilitate solutions for the displaced and refugees in Yemen are being severely hindered by the current funding crisis. Our revised needs for refugee and IDP programmes in 2010 in Yemen amount to £33.2 million. So far, we have received 44 per cent of the requested funds.