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Humanitarian Situation in N. Yemen Worsening

U.N. aid agencies report the humanitarian situation in Northern Yemen is worsening. They say fighting between Yemeni government forces and al Houthi rebels is continuing to escalate and approximately 119,000 people have been displaced.

U.N. aid agencies say insecurity in the conflict areas of Northern Yemen is making it very difficult for humanitarian workers to gain access to the needy population. They say it is difficult to obtain accurate information on the needs, the numbers and whereabouts of the displaced population.

They say the number of people who have been forced from their homes by fighting might be as high as 150,000.

U.N. refugee spokesman Andrej Mahecic says a dire and complex humanitarian emergency has worsened during the past few days. He says the UNHCR is particularly worried about the situation in Sa'ada city.

"UNHCR team in Sa'ada city reports there is not water and no electricity in the city since 10 August. There is also a shortage of fuel and it is becoming increasingly dangerous and hard for the people to reach the market and get food," said Mahecic. "Our staff on the ground had registered some 700 newly displaced families over the past two weeks. However, registration has been suspended due to the security situation inside the city and the 24 hour curfew."

Mahecic says the UNHCR is working with local authorities and other partners in building a new camp.

He says his agency distributed tents, plastic sheeting, blankets and jerry cans to some 6,000 people Monday and more relief items are expected to arrive in the area later in the week.

U.N. Children's Fund spokeswoman Miranda Eeles says, as in all conflicts, children and women are most affected by the escalation of fighting.

"With 73 children out of 1,000 live births dying before their 5th anniversary, Yemen has one of the highest under-five mortality rates in the Middle East and North Africa region," she said. "Malnutrition rates are also high, with 46 percent of under fives underweight and 53 percent suffering from stunting. So, as you can see, the conflict is exacerbating an already difficult situation for children in Yemen," she added.

The Sa'ada airport is closed, except for military operations and the United Nations says travel between the Yemeni capital San'a and Sa'ada is hampered by insecurity and road blocks.

The government recently announced it is considering establishing humanitarian corridors so aid agencies can bring relief supplies to the inaccessible conflict zones.

The United Nations has released from its emergency fund $1.2 million to Yemen. It plans to issue a much larger emergency appeal in the coming days.