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Aid Agencies Brace for New Humanitarian Emergency in Yemen

FILE - People gather to collect food rations at a food distribution center in Sana'a, Yemen, March 21, 2017.

The U.N. refugee agency reports aid agencies are bracing for another humanitarian emergency in Yemen as people flee from intensified fighting in frontline areas on Yemen’s west coast.

The UNHCR says it has received reports that more than 1,400 people have fled from Hudaydah and Taizz governorates in the past few days. This follows the recent fighting in the Yemeni capital Sana’a and neighboring areas.

The UNHCR says it is working with other aid agencies to scale up operations to help those who are fleeing and others to come. Agency spokesman, Babar Baloch, says emergency relief kits for 2,000 families in Hudaydah have been sent and more relief for thousands of other families is on the way.

But, he says Saudi Arabia’s blockade of Yemen is harming emergency operations.

“The blockade of Yemen, which has yet to be fully eased, has also resulted in shortages and subsequent price increases for fuel, water and essential commodities, including food and vital medicines. This has hit many displaced and local Yemenis as well as refugees. Restrictions on both commercial and humanitarian goods reaching Yemen are still in place,” he said.

Baloch says the UNHCR is especially worried about the fate of 1,460 Eritrean refugees as well as Yemeni civilians in Al Khawkah. This area, which is 117 kilometers (73 miles) south of Al Hudaydah City has been declared a military zone. He says it is difficult to bring in food and other goods because of ongoing hostilities.

He says plans to help Somali refugees hoping to escape Yemen and return to Somalia have been put on hold. He says three boats at the Port of Aden have not been able to leave for Berbera in Somalia because necessary clearances from the authorities have not been received.