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October 22, 10

NEWS / Returns to northern Yemen sluggish, UN refugee agency reports


22 October 2010 – Despite the peace agreement signed months ago between the Government and rebels in Yemen, its slow implementation is keeping many who were uprooted by the violence from returning to their homes in the country’s north, the United Nations refugee agency said today.

So far, only 20,000 people forced to flee their homes by the clashes have returned to their homes in Sa’ada governorate, following the June agreement reached between Government forces and Al-Houthi rebels.

“Many tell us that the biggest obstacles to larger-scale returns are lack of security and safety, fear of reprisals or new fighting, and extensive destruction of houses and infrastructure,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), told reporters in Geneva today.

Reports of incidents involving landmines and unexploded ordnance are common, often resulting in casualties – sometimes fatal – in children, shepherds or returnees.

Given the fragile security situation, UNHCR staff can only access IDPs and returnees near Sa’ada City.

“While the situation seems to be somewhat improving, allowing, as of recently, some movement of our staff outside the security belt around the city, we remain concerned about the lack of access and humanitarian situation in other parts of the governorate,” Mr. Edwards noted.

With winter approaching, UNHCR estimates that more than 300,000 people are still displaced, sheltering in camps or with host families, and are in need of assistance.

The agency said that it is rushing additional blankets and tents to the area, as well as support to those who have found accommodation on their own, to help IDPs through the cold period.

Average winter temperatures in northern Yemen’s highlands are below zero degrees Celsius.

So far, 30,000 IDPs have received help for the winter, mostly in Amran province, north of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.

UNHCR has dispatched a five-truck aid convoy carrying tents, mattresses and other supplies from Saudi Arabia to help more than 2,000 people living at a makeshift site in Mandabah, just across the Saudi border at the northernmost tip of Yemen.

“These IDPs have been living in quite harsh conditions, lacking shelter, sanitation and food,” the agency’s spokesperson said.

UNHCR is planning additional large-scale distributions in Sa’ada and Sana’a governorates in the next two weeks, aiming to reach 100,000 IDPs.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=36535&Cr=yemen&Cr1=

 




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