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Cold Weather Adds to Misery of Yemen's Displaced

The International Committee of the Red Cross reports bitterly cold weather is increasing the misery of thousands of people fleeing the conflict in northern Yemen. At least 150,000 people have been affected by the escalating fighting between the Yemeni government and Shi'ite rebels since mid-August. About half are internally displaced.

Tens of thousands of people have fled the conflict in northern Yemen over the past five months. And, they continue to leave in large numbers.

A spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, Dorothea Krimitsas, says freezing temperatures are making the already dire situation of people fleeing their homes even worse.

"Our concern according to what we can witness there, because we are on the ground, we are present on the ground - harsh weather conditions and winter conditions in northern Yemen are affecting the populations there, especially those fleeing who have absolutely no shelter and nothing and, sometimes no clothes," she explained. "They have to flee just with what they have on them and leave. So, this is something that is making their condition much more difficult."

Krimitsas says the risk of respiratory infections is increasing, especially among children exposed to the cold, the wind, and the rain. She says getting shelter for people living out in the cold is vital as is access to food, water and health care.

The Red Cross is unable to reach large parts of the conflict areas. Therefore, Krimitsas says it is difficult to know how many people are not receiving aid.

"But, despite these conditions, we continue to work in close cooperation with other organizations and especially together with the Yemeni Red Crescent Society," she said. "We continue to work and to maintain our aid effort. We have so far provided around 73,000 displaced people with water, food and other essential items. We continue to run five camps."

Krimitsas says the Red Cross also provides health care to the displaced and medical support, including supplies, to the Yemeni Red Crescent.

She says the International Committee of the Red Cross is renewing its appeal to all parties in the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians and to allow safe passage for humanitarian aid.