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Humanitarian Situation Deteriorating in Northern Yemen

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is appealing for safe corridors in northern Yemen as the humanitarian situation in the area of conflict continues to deteriorate. UN humanitarian agencies say getting aid to those displaced by the fighting remains difficult.

The UN reports fighting between the government and al-Houthi rebels is ongoing both inside Saada city and its surroundings. The UN refugee agency says this northern Yemen town has been practically cut off from the rest of the world for a week.

The UN refugee agency says the warring parties have rejected a cease-fire and vow to continue their hostilities. Spokesman, Andrej Mahecic says that is why High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres is renewing his call for safe corridors in northern Yemen.

He says such corridors would allow civilians to leave the conflict zone. It also would allow humanitarian workers to deliver much needed humanitarian aid to thousands of displaced people in this remote part of the country.

"The residents, as well as those displaced in Saada city, are unable to leave," he said. "The state of emergency is still in force. The markets are closed in the city, resulting in an extreme shortage of food and other commodities as well as drastic price increases. Many are living on assistance from friends and relatives who had been able to store food. The Al Anad camp in Saada is off limits. The other three sites for internally displaced people are still open but are becoming overcrowded as civilians flee the violence."

Mahecic says the UNHCR plans to distribute relief items to some 370 families in Saada city on Saturday if security permits.

World Food Program spokeswoman, Emilia Casella, echoes this concern. She says it is very difficult to bring aid to people in need of help because of the volatile security situation.

"We just received information from our staff yesterday that on Wednesday, during a lull in the fighting, the WFP staff along with our implementing partner, Islamic Relief, were able to give a full month ration to 2,513 IDPs who are in two camps in the town who had previously not been able to be reached," said Casella. "They were hungry and dehydrated, so we were glad that we were able to get food to them, but obviously, there are many other people who need assistance."

Casella says WFP is planning to feed some 150,000 people in Yemen. She says the agency is looking into the possibility of moving some supplies through Saudi Arabia. But, adds nothing yet is set.

The UNHCR says it has stockpiles of non-food relief items in Yemen because the agency is taking care of 150,000 Somali refugees in the country. Spokesman Mahecic says some of these supplies are being redeployed to other parts of Yemen where the needs are greater.