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More Civilians Fleeing War-Torn Yemen

  • Lisa Schlein

UN and International aid agencies say plight of civilians in Yemen is worsening amid increasing conflict along Yemeni-Saudi border. The agencies say IDP camps are becoming overcrowded as more and more people fleeing their homes arrive

United Nations and International aid agencies say the plight of civilians in Yemen is worsening amid the increasing conflict along the Yemeni-Saudi border. The agencies say camps for internally displaced people are becoming overcrowded as more and more people who have fled their homes arrive.

The U.N. refugee agency says more and more Yemeni civilians are fleeing embattled Saada province in northern Yemen as the fighting between government troops and Al Houti forces enters the fourth month.

Over the past few days, UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says some 150 new families, or up to 900 people, have been arriving every day at Al Mazrak camp in Hajjah province.

"This is a significant increase over the 20 to 30 families per day in the previous weeks. The camp has now exceeded its capacity with nearly 10,000 internally displaced people living there," said Mahecic. "The latest sudden influx is adding more pressure on an already dire situation, and overcrowding in the camp is becoming a major concern. Three or four families now share a tent normally meant for one," he said.

Mahecic notes Al Mazrak camp already has been expanded twice. He says most of the inhabitants are women and children. And, in response to their particular needs, he says the UNHCR has opened a center designed to make them feel safe in seeking help for their special health and protection concerns.

The International Committee of the Red Cross and Yemen Red Crescent are caring for thousands of people in the northwestern part of Saada governorate, in areas bordering Saudi Arabia.

They say the number of people taking refuge in Mandaba village is rising, with between 140 and 280 people being registered every day.

Red Cross spokeswoman, Dorothea Krimitsas, says people are traveling long distances to reach the relatively safe area of Mandaba. She says they arrive exhausted and in need of food, water, and shelter.

She says the agencies are providing essential relief to thousands of people in the area. But, this is becoming more difficult to do.

"It is also more and more difficult to reach medical and health facilities for internally displaced people and residents in northern Yemen. We have been able sometimes to transfer patients to facilities in other areas," Krimitsas said. "But, at times, we have not been able to do so because of the fighting. And, we once again strongly urge the conflict parties to admit the deliveries of humanitarian aid and to allow medical personnel and vehicles to bring life saving assistance," she said.

The U.N. Children's Fund expresses deep concern about the escalation of the conflict in northern Yemen. It says the fighting, which now has spilled into Saudi Arabia, has caused 240 villages to be evacuated and more than 50 schools to be closed.

UNICEF says malnutrition among children in internally displaced camps is reaching alarming levels. And, it says some deaths have been recorded.

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