This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
15 December 2017
UNHCR is bracing for further displacement and a spike in humanitarian needs as hostilities intensify in frontline areas on Yemen’s west coast. This follows the recent fighting in the capital, Sana’a, and neighbouring governorates.
Over the past few days, UNHCR has received reports of new displacement from Hudaydah and Taizz governorates. UNHCR and partners are still assessing the situation, but initial reports are that more than 1,400 people have fled from Taizz and Hudaydah to the Ash Shamateen district in Southern Taizz, and Al Fayoosh district in Lahj. With numbers expected to rise further, UNHCR is working with partners to be in position to support and help those fleeing.
To date we have deployed emergency relief items for 2,000 families in Hudaydah, and a further 2,000 aid kits are on their way along with 2,000 emergency shelter kits. As the port of Hudaydah remains closed an additional 43 containers with emergency, shelter and household aid, including plastic tarpaulins and blankets for more than 20,000 families had to be diverted to Aden.
Of particular concern to UNHCR is the fate of 1,460 Eritrean refugees as well as Yemeni civilians in the Al Khawkah area, 117 kilometres south of Al Hudaydah City. The area has been declared a military zone. We are arranging for emergency cash assistance to be sent to this vulnerable community, which is facing difficulties in accessing food due to the hostilities.
The situation in Sana’a itself has now returned to relative calm following days of ground fighting, aerial bombardment and shelling in urban areas. As of this week, UNHCR premises in Sana’a reopened, and we are working with partners to resume humanitarian operations that had been halted since the beginning of the month. We are also restoring services and resuming assistance for the most vulnerable.
The blockade of Yemen, which has yet to be fully eased, has also resulted in scarcities 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. New procedures for clearances including at Aden Port are also resulting in delays for the offloading of cargo, including humanitarian cargo. Vessels are facing delays and, as result of these new clearance processes, there is currently no more space at the port. UNHCR has asked the authorities to expedite clearances for humanitarian cargo, especially perishable goods such as medicines.
Assistance and services for conflict-affected and displaced communities across Yemen have also been interrupted. UNHCR’s financial assistance programme, which is intended to benefit more than 17,000 vulnerable displaced families with winter assistance grants, has been postponed for the time being due to delays in funds being released from financial service providers and families themselves struggling to access financial assistance.
For Somali refugees hoping to escape Yemen and return to Somalia, through an Assisted Spontaneous Return programme supported by UNHCR and IOM, three boat departures from the Port of Aden to Berbera in Somalia were postponed in the last fortnight as clearances from relevant authorities were pending. A fourth vessel, chartered as part of the programme, was finally able to set sail with 108 Somali refugees on board.