UN assisting civilians trapped amid fighting in northern Yemen

Most of those affected by the clashes are children, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which has started distributing water filters, jerry cans, hygiene kits and 300,000 water purification tablets.The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) – which has been supporting some 100,000 people affected by fighting since 2007 – said that in the past two weeks alone, clashes around Sa’ada city have displaced around 35,000 people.Roads to Sa’ada governorate, which borders Saudi Arabia and is a relatively remote and inaccessible region, are blocked and there is no access to the conflict zone by air.Since 2004, fighting between Al Houthi rebels and Government troops in the governorate have impacted 120,000 people, UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva today.Uprooted families continue to stream into the Al-Talh camp, one of four sites run by the Yemeni Red Crescent in Sa’ada city, with over 5,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) having fled there from a nearby camp which became a battleground in recent days.Some are escaping north and west towards the Saudi Arabian border, while others are seeking refuge in Yemen’s east, Mr. Mahecic said.UNHCR, along with other UN agencies, has been in neighbouring Hajjah governorate since last week to assess the situation, finding that priority needs include shelter, clean water and basic sanitation facilities.“We are appealing for a ceasefire which would allow the civilian population to escape the fighting and enable aid workers to resume deliveries of humanitarian assistance,” Mr. Mahecic said, adding that UNHCR is calling on donors for an additional $5 million to respond to the latest emergency.Funding is also a significant problem for the World Food Programme (WFP), which has begun distributing emergency rations to thousands forced from their homes in the latest round of fighting.“WFP responded rapidly to this sudden crisis, providing life-saving assistance to thousands of homeless and hungry people who are reliant on our help,” said Gian Carlo Cirri, WFP Country Director in Yemen. “But we are very short of funds for our operations, especially now that the situation is deteriorating and the needs are increasing.”A funding shortfall last month forced the agency to halve its rations for 95,000 war-affected people, many of whom rely entirely upon food assistance.WFP only has enough food in Sa’ada to cover the number of people in need – currently standing at 150,000 and rising – for two weeks.Without an influx of additional resources, the agency warned that over 1 million people – including those devastated by last year’s floods and those impacted by soaring food prices – could stop receiving much-needed food aid from November onwards.For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) has donated trauma kits and other medical supplies, with more expected to be delivered shortly.Diarrhoea and skin rashes, as well as malaria, have been reported by IDP families, according to assessments carried out by the agency, with lack of water and sanitation another key concern.Yesterday, WHO announced that it has received a $230,000 boost from the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) to meet health needs for Yemenis affected by fighting. 21 August 2009The United Nations is helping civilians caught up in violence between Government troops and rebels in the mountains of northern Yemen, with the world body estimating that over 100,000 people have been affected by the upsurge in fighting.