Yemen: Despite major obstacles and insecurity, UN continuing to deliver aid to displaced

A truckload full of UNHCR aid in Yemen. Photo: UNHCR

A truckload full of UNHCR aid in Yemen. Photo: UNHCR

Yemen, 3 July 2015 – The United Nations is working to deliver humanitarian aid in war-torn Yemen despite widespread insecurity, port delays and severe restrictions on access, several of the Organization’s agencies and partners confirmed today, citing efforts to provide everything from emergency shelters to food and other basic necessities to tens of thousands of people displaced by fighting and airstrikes.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that in May and June, the agency had been able to get basic relief to 56,369 people and plastic sheeting for emergency shelters to a further 7,000 families who had been staying in collective centres.

Aid had been going out across the eight governorates of Abyan, Aden, Amanat Alasimah, Amran, Hajjah, Hodeida, Sana’a and Taiz. Mr. Edwards said that in all, 84,166 displaced people had received non-food aid since the start of April, about 70 per cent of that coming directly from UNHCR and the rest from partners.

“The distributions came amid a worsening situation in many governorates. Al Hazm, the capital of Al Jawf governorate in the country’s north, was hit by airstrikes for three consecutive days in late June causing the evacuation of an estimated 900 families,” he said, adding that most of the residents of the city’s Al Matuma district had been seeking safety in Al Maton and Al Masloub districts.

Al Maton had been the first district in Al Jawf to receive displaced people from Sa’ada. At present there, were an estimated 2,470 internally displaced families there along with an additional 1,400 families from Amran and other governorates.

“The humanitarian response for those populations had been severely restricted due to ongoing fighting and the consequent problems with access,” said Mr. Edwards, explain that UNHCR is seeking to connect with its main operational partners who had networks in Al-Jawf, to provide additional help.

“UNHCR continues to call for unfettered access and movements of humanitarian workers and its supplies so that vital assistance can reach those in need,” he said, adding that currently, there aremore than one million internally displaced people (IDPs) in Yemen, plus some 244,000 refugees. It is estimated that there are more than 21 million people in need throughout the country, concluded Mr. Edwards.

Echoing many of the same concerns, Elisabeth Byrs, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), said limited access due to constant insecurity remains a fundamental obstacle to the effective delivery of food commodities in Yemen.

Since 15 April, WFP had assisted 1.9 million Yemenis with food aid, through the distribution of 25,000 metric tons of food in 12 governorates, she said, adding that some three million tons of food and fuel on board seven ships were expected in Yemeni ports in the period between 3 and 9 July.

“Commercial shipping into Yemen is slowly increasing but remains constrained by port congestion and high fees due to the time spent by ships waiting to dock. Delays as long as 11 days have been reported at Hodeidah and Salif ports,” she explained.

“The food situation in Aden is very bad,” said Ms. Byrs, reporting that humanitarian agencies are facing serious difficulties to reaching the port. The security situation remained volatile around the port area and in most of the city, which is suffering from small shortages of clean water and power cuts. Most bakeries in Aden had reportedly shut down because of wheat and fuel shortages, she added.

Moreover, a WFP-chartered vessel continued to be redirected to Hodeidah port, despite frequent attempts to deliver to Aden. “WFP had attempted several times to reach Aden with ships but the poor security situation around the port had forced the ships to turn back. However, WFP was still trying to deliver aid, by land and by sea.

In June, food for 80,000 people was distributed but this had not been nearly enough for the one million inhabitants of Aden, said Ms. Byrs, adding that by comparison, in April WFP dispatched food for 200,000 people and in May for 44,000 people.

“The situation in Yemen is dire, said Ms. Byrs, noting that WFP’s operations from June to August were not fully funded and that $103 million is urgently needed.

At the same briefing, Fadéla Chaib, spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO), provided recent figures on violations to health facilities and staff in Yemen due to the conflict, as of 14 June 2015. So far there had been 54 total health facilities damaged, of which 20 had been fully damaged, and 13 health workers had been injured of whom three had been killed, she informed the press.

Ahmad Fawzi, Director, Ad Interim of the UN Information Service in Geneva, noted that United Nations Special Envoy on Yemen Ould Cheikh Ahmed is currently in Riyadh where he had reiterated both the UN Secretary-General’s and his own call for a humanitarian pause, especially during the fasting month of Ramadan. The Special Envoy would next travel to Sana’a where he would continue to push all the parties, Mr. Fawzi added.