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UN Says Thousands of Uprooted Yemenis Living in Deplorable Conditions

FILE - Displaced Yemeni girls are seen near a watercourse at a refugee camp located between Marib and Sanaa, Yemen, March 29, 2018.

The U.N. refugee agency reports tens of thousands of people internally displaced in Yemen’s northern Marib governorate are living under deplorable, often life-threatening conditions.

Ongoing fighting between Houthi rebels and Yemen government forces for control of the city of Marib is taking an enormous toll on the civilian population.

A recent assessment by the U.N. refugee agency finds settlements hosting nearly 190,000 displaced people are overcrowded and lacking basic necessities. UNHCR spokeswoman Aikaterini Kitidi says clean water, latrines, electricity, and health facilities are in short supply.

"Only 21 percent of residents are reachable by aid organizations due to the prevailing insecurity, as many people who were displaced in the vicinity of active frontlines," Kitidi said. "Women and children constitute 80 percent of the displaced. With limited shelter options, they are the ones who suffer most from the ensuing overcrowding, lack of privacy and limited access to basic services, such as toilets and water.”

More than six years of civil conflict has uprooted about four million people from their homes. Marib governorate hosts around a quarter of this displaced population.

Kitidi says armed clashes, shelling and air strikes in this volatile region have newly displaced nearly 24,000 people this year.

She says they have sought safety in urban centers and in the 150 informal settlements. She says these areas are overstretched and cannot offer even scant help to these vulnerable people.

"Their shelters are inadequate, and many have been further damaged by recent floods and fire incidents due to open-fire cooking," Kitidi said. "Given the scarce resources, scores of displaced families have been forced to build their own accommodation, using old blankets and plastic sheeting.”

The UNHCR is calling on the warring parties to grant unimpeded access to the settlements to guarantee the safe delivery of lifesaving aid.

The United Nations calls Yemen, where some five million people are on the verge of famine, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.