Amid legal violations in war-ravaged Sa’ada,Refugees suffering severe starvation, lack of basic services [Archives:2008/1184/Front Page]

August 25 2008

Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Aug. 24 ) The majority of Sa'ada residents who fled their homes due to fighting between Yemeni government troops and Houthi gunmen are suffering starvation and lack of basic services, tribal sources from the war-torn governorate said Sunday.

They noted that except for a few sporadic individual violations, the governorate's security situation is calm, adding that many refugees now have returned to their homes.

Other refugees whose homes and farmlands were destroyed during the fighting have been forced to remain in tents and caves, where they experience both want and starvation and fear unknown consequences because they aren't receiving sufficient aid, foodstuffs or medicine and they lack blankets to shield them from dust and cold.

Various organizations claiming to media outlets that they are providing aid to these refugees know nothing about the delivery of aid they've allocate for them. They only know about aid that has reached those refugees living in tents near the highway or the provincial capital.

Concerning reconstruction projects the government has alluded to, the same tribal sources maintain that the government committees designated to assess the war's damages are making slow progress in Haidan district, Sa'ada governorate's worst hit area.

The sources add that the committees have encountered numerous difficulties while performing their duties, noting that some 33 reconstruction engineers ceased assessing war-related damages in protest against the Yemeni government for not paying them.

One government committee concerned with damage assessment and compensation previously stated to media outlets that, “Many displaced residents in Haidan and Saqain districts are experiencing harsh living conditions because relief agencies and charitable organizations are concentrating on those refugees living in tents in the suburbs around the provincial capital.”

The majority of displaced residents are sheltering in remote areas far from Sa'ada city, where they are experiencing a marked shortage in basic services.

Detainees' relatives protest

Dozens of citizens whose relatives are being detained for their alleged connection with the Sa'ada fighting protested in front of the attorney general's office in Sana'a on Saturday. Their protest was part of a series of peaceful actions sponsored by several civil society organizations that are standing in solidarity with the detainees' relatives.

The protesters held up photos of their detained relatives and banners demanding the Yemeni government release them. They maintain that the Yemeni Constitution and law, as well as international conventions Yemen has ratified, criminalize the human rights abuses committed against their jailed relatives.

The attorney general promised the protestors to investigate and pay close attention to their allegations.

Civil society organizations sponsoring the protest hold the attorney general accountable for what's happening to those citizens detained for their purported links to the Sa'ada fighting.

Regarding efforts to reconstruct war-affected areas, Local Administration Minister Abdulqader Hilal, who is also deputy chairman of the Sa'ada Reconstruction Fund, told official media outlets that reconstruction has been hindered due to recurring clashes in the governorate, adding that assessment of war-affected areas will begin early next month.

Hilal emphasized the necessity of rehabilitating damaged schools in order to enable students to enroll for the 2008-2009 school year, further indicating that top priority must be given to mosques, public service facilities and citizens' homes.