GENEVA - U.N. agencies are expressing growing concern about the millions of people who have been forcibly displaced by the nearly year-long conflict in Yemen. The United Nations reports more than 3,000 civilians have been killed and nearly 6,000 wounded since Saudi Arabia began bombing Houthi rebels on March 26, 2015. These numbers do not reflect casualties among the fighting forces.
U.N. refugee spokesman Leo Dobbs says the latest report of a special Task Force on Population Movement shows more than 2.4 million people now are internally displaced in Yemen.
“This is a staggeringly high figure and a cause for grave alarm and the situation is likely to get worse amid increasingly dire humanitarian and socioeconomic conditions and with no political settlement in sight,” Dobbs said.
Dobbs says most of the displaced are in five areas where the conflict is most intense - namely Taizz, Hajjah, Sana’a, Amran, and Sa’ada.
“We have been trying to get aid into these areas - these displacement areas,” Dobbs said. "We are imploring all sides to allow humanitarian access to the hardest hit areas.”
The Saudi-led coalition has imposed a blockade on the import of food, medicine, fuel and other essentials for most of the past year. From time to time, there has been an easing of the restrictions, which has allowed some, but not enough life-saving commodities into Yemen.
The International Organization for Migration says it is very concerned about the situation of thousands of third country nationals caught up in the conflict. It says they are subject to all kinds of violence and chaos.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman says thousands of Somali asylum seekers and Ethiopian migrants who want to transit to the Middle East are stranded in war-torn Yemen.
“There is a wide belief that 92,000 people managed to enter Yemen last year from Somalia…and Ethiopia," said Millman. "Their whereabouts is not entirely known. We know that some have managed to get to their destinations, but we know many have not. Then there are concerns about abduction and detention in Yemen now.”
The United Nations launched an appeal for $1.8 billion last month to provide humanitarian assistance to 13.6 million people in need. Just 2 percent are funded.