Spotlight On IDPs In Amran Governorate

Thousands of people in the impoverished northern governorate of Amran have been displaced by recent fighting between government forces and followers of rebel Shia leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and live in dire conditions.

The IDPs were forced to leave their homes in the governorate’s Harf Sufian District due to fighting between the rebels and the army in May 2008.

Obaid Madram, head of the Yemeni Red Crescent Society (YRCS) office in Amran, said 800 displaced families (10,000-12,000 people), were living in miserable conditions. "Their humanitarian situation is deteriorating. They have no income and only very few are government employees," Madram told IRIN on 17 August.

There was no camp for the internally displaced persons [IDPs]. "They live in abandoned houses, schools and mosques," he said.

In late May, a YRCS aid convoy heading for the IDPs in Harf Sufian was attacked by pro-government tribes in Houth District.

"That particular incident adversely affected and hampered aid work. No relief assistance has been sent to the area since then," he said. The convoy was carrying mattresses, blankets, water filters and kitchen utensils, he said, adding that none of these materials had been recovered and no-one arrested.

Photo: Google Maps >

A map of Yemen highlighting Saada and Amran provinces

“Before the incident, we had agreed with the Amran Governorate authorities to set up three IDP camps. But nothing was done after the attack on the convoy," he said.

"When the displaced do not find anything to eat, they will resort to doing anything," he warned.

The YRCS has been working closely with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in assisting thousands of IDPs in Saada Governorate affected by the four-year conflict.

Houses destroyed

Mahmoud Taha, a local journalist based in Amran, said the IDPs had not been able to return home as their houses had been destroyed during the fighting in Harf Sufian. "Their villages have turned into heaps of stones," he told IRIN.

Taha said the IDPs were living in the nearby districts of Houth, Bani Sarim, Khamer, Eyal Suriah and Eyal Yazid. "The standard of living there has deteriorated a lot. They do not have tents. They did not take anything with them when they were displaced… diseases such as diarrhoea have spread among them," he said.

Taha added that the government damage assessment committee had not been able to begin work in Harf Sufian.

More IDPs arrive

Since May, an additional 300 displaced families have arrived in Amran Governorate, according to the YRCS’s Madram. They fled Saada Governorate after the fighting in May, he said. "They live in districts such as Kharef, Dhibeen and Khamer. Their situation is no better than in Harf Sufian," he said.

Madram said these IDPs, too, were living mainly in abandoned buildings, and that they had not received any relief assistance.

Harf Sufian borders Saada Governorate. Of the 20 districts in Amran Governorate, it is the biggest, covering 2,782sqkm. Its population is 42,480, according to the 2004 census.

In Amran Governorate 71 percent of the population are poor, according to a 2007 report prepared by Yemen's government, the World Bank, and the UN Development Programme.


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Spotlight on IDPs in Amran Governorate
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