More humanitarian assistance for Sa’ada governorate [Archives:2008/1204/Front Page]

November 3 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Nov. 2 ) A large quantity of medicine and medical equipment, allocated for some affected areas in Sa'ada, arrived in Sana'a Sunday aboard an air carrier, Medecins Sans Fronti'res (Doctors without Borders or MSF) representative in Sana'a Ghada Hatim told the Yemen Times.

“We care about delivering medical supplies to the affected areas as soon as possible,” Hatim said. “We will work harder to get an approval from the governorate's health office and I will travel to Sa'ada myself on Monday. We shouldn't postpone delivery of such aid, most notably as malaria and other diseases have begun to spread terribly in Al-Marahidh and nearby areas.”

She stressed that the work of her organization is purely humanitarian, adding that the organization's staff work neutrally and expect kind support from Yemen's Minister of Public Health and Population in this regard.

From his side, manager of the Sa'ada Health Office Dr. Omar Mujalli said to the Yemen Times by phone, “We welcome MSF to resume the operations it started at the end of last year in some war-affected areas.”

Regarding obstacles faced by efforts to deliver aid to affected areas, Mujalli noted two female European doctors, accompanied by a local translator and driver, tried to enter the area of Mirran three weeks ago. “We requested the three physicians to wait for three days until we inform the concerned security authorities for the sake of their safety, particularly as the targeted areas were still unsafe. They, however, refused to heed to our suggestions and moved toward Mirran. A security checkpoint demanded that they return to Sana'a to make necessary arrangements with the responsible security agencies to ensure them a safe trip,” Mujalli explained.

“We hope that our citizens receive good healthcare regardless of politics,” Mujalli went on to say. “We welcome any humanitarian organization providing assistance to affected residents and we will facilitate the arrival of aid workers to affected areas. We are ready to provide all the facilities required by these organizations as long as they operate neutrally and accept security arrangements to ensure their safe trips.”

Houthi representative Sheikh Saleh Habra confirmed on Sunday that Sa'ada residents are patiently waiting for assistance to be delivered by Medecins Sans Fronti'res.

He added that diseases including malaria are rapidly spreading in Marahidh and nearby areas, pointing out that humanitarian organizations should play a positive role to prevent further proliferation of these diseases.

Habra affirmed that ailing citizens have resorted to using alternative medicine, including herbs, due to lack of medicine, equipment and staff in their areas.

With regard to the security situation, Habra said, “Revenge killings are on the increase and some influential individuals don't want the governorate to look safe and stable. Instead, these individuals fuel antagonism and hatred between tribesmen with the aim of producing negative consequences. We don't want a new war to break out between tribesmen and their brothers in other tribes.”

Local sources from Sa'ada governorate said that further troop reinforcements had arrived in the governorate these days, along with heavy artillery and weapons. Reacting to these army reinforcements, Houthi field leader Abdulmalik Al-Houthi said they don't reflect a positive step on the government's part.

In a statement distributed to various media, he said, “The government should have sent troops to the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, which are areas of real threat to the homeland,” referring to Yemen's territorial waters near the Somali coastline where international troops have been deployed to allegedly fight pirates who hijacked tens of multinational ships during 2008.

Symposium on arbitrary arrests over Sa'ada fighting

Participants in a symposium, organized by Arab Sisters Forum last week, said the government has arbitrarily arrested innocent civilians, even taking family members as hostages for wanted individuals. Unlike private citizens, the government commands regular law enforcement personnel and operates official detention facilities.

According to participants, government agents do not inform the detainee, or his family, as to why they have arrested him or do not tell relatives where they are holding him. Families of detainees often for months do not know where their next of kin is being held. In eight cases documented in a Human Rights Watch's report, suspects “disappeared”, most of who eventually re-appeared at the Political Security or National Security agencies after weeks or months.

The Islah Party, one of the major opposition parties in Yemen, warned against the possibility of the outbreak of a new war in Sa'ada. “Although the government decided to end the war in Sa'ada, the crisis is still going on,” party leaders said.

Islah described the ruling party as being “addicted to resolving problems with further crisis”, particularly as it wants to eliminate all its political partners, run alone in the elections, and instigate military and security institutions against the Joint Meeting Parties.