The United Nations Refugee Agency says its humanitarian operations in conflict-ridden northern Yemen have run out of cash. The UNHCR says it has approved an internal loan of $4.7 million to continue essential programs for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people in the country.
The U.N. refugee agency says the money will subsidize programs until June. Although the loan will have to be repaid, the agency says it had no other choice. It says it would have had to scale down or suspend UNHCR'S protection and assistance programs without the immediate injection of much needed cash.
UNHCR spokesman, Andrej Mahecic, says tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee their homes during seven months of conflict between the government and Houthi rebels in northern Yemen. He says the cut-off of crucial aid would have an adverse and irreversible impact on the civilian population.
"A weak donor response this year threatens our operational capacity and protection efforts to register and document some 250,000 IDPs, [Internally Displaced People] to monitor their situation and to address their humanitarian needs-giving special attention to those most vulnerable-namely children, women and elderly. The funds are also urgently needed to expand the existing, already overpopulated IDP camps at Al Mazrak and to build new ones in the north of the country, to organize and provide shelter materials, namely tents and plastic sheeting as well as to provide basic relief items such as blankets, mattresses, hygienic kits, etc," he said.
The UNHCR has received only 10 percent of the $39 million appeal it launched some weeks ago.
The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels agreed on a cease-fire nearly two weeks ago. Mahecic says displaced Yemeni civilians in Al Mazrak camps in Hajjah province and other governorates are hopeful, but cautious, about the cease-fire holding.
He says the displaced people are eager to go home and individual family members have gone on scouting missions to assess whether it is safe for them to return. "Initial sketchy reports from IDPs confirm considerable difficulties in moving through parts of Saada province, which had been affected by the fighting," he said.
"Some roads are still blocked and there are unmarked areas still littered with mines and unexploded ordnance. A report of one casualty of an IDP due to a mine explosion has further strengthened fears among IDPs regarding the safety of return," he added.
Mines and unexploded ordnance pose a serious risk for returning refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide. The UNHCR says caution must be taken to prevent unnecessary loss of life in Yemen.
It notes mines and unexploded ordnance must be removed and basic services restored before large-scale returns can take place.