Relative optimism as humanitarian aid slowly finds its way to Sa’ada [Archives:2008/1177/Front Page]

July 31 2008

By: Maryam Al-Yemeni
& Nadia Al-Sakkaf

SA'ADA, July 30 ) The current situation in Sa'ada is slowly stabilizing after the president's declaration that ended the war on July 17th, but restrictions, high prices and damaged property still makes life hard for the governate's residents.

The 8 p.m. curfew is still in place and locals do not attempt to go outside after 9 p.m. fearing renewed attacks by Houthi rebels, in addition to the threat of security arrests if they are suspected of aiding the Houthis.

Food prices are still high and much more so than in the other governorates; petrol is brought Saudi Arabia and diesel from Hodeidah.

“The price for a 200 liter container of diesel reached YR 22,000, from [its previous price of] YR 7,500,” said Abdullah Hussein, an employee at Al-Talh Hospital in Sa'ada.

Telecommunication networks were blocked during the war, and when the peace was declared, some lines went back on briefly for three hours. However, now residents say that communication lines – specifically cellular phone lines – have ceased to operate once more.

Throughout the conflict there were severe electricity problems. Now, because of the use of generators, there is electrical power again. In Sa'ada city there were medicines available, but because of the scarcity of diesel fuel, Al-Salam Hospital was shut down. It remains closed to this day.

Mansour Al-Shara'abi, a correspondent, explained that residents who had fled because of the war are gradually returning to their homes, yet many have discovered their homes were ruined. Though it was difficult for residents to find food initially because of the roadblocks isolating the governorate, things are now – gradually – returning back to normal.

Abu Bakr Al-Qirbi, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, explained that Yemen has called on the foreign community and donors to help Sa'ada recover. “Now that peace has been restored overall in the area, we need to cooperate together to rebuild what has been destroyed,” he said.

On Monday, Al-Qirbi and Deputy Prime Minister Rashad Al-Alimi met with the international donor community in Yemen to explain the situation and ask for support to mitigate the damages in Sa'ada.

On Tuesday evening, the governor of Sa'ada, local security and administration in the governorate met with the humanitarian organizations in Sa'ada, as well as some of the locally-based civil organizations to coordinate humanitarian assistance.

The meeting was positive overall, and the call for humanitarian operations to recommence working in the area was made official.

Aid is on the way

Islamic Relief arrived in the area this past Tuesday and the International Committee of the Red Cross resumed its work in Sa'ada on Wednesday. Other relief organizations are still working on their plans to travel to the war-torn area.

The United Nations has not yet sent its security team to Sa'ada as of Wednesday night. The security team assesses the risk for UN employees and arranges for the needs assessment team to be sent afterwards.

Khalid Al-Mowalad, Yemen Country Director at the Islamic Relief organization, explained that the situation is calm now, even in areas like Harf Syfian where a lot of the damage had been especially recently.

“We have done extensive focus group discussions with men and women in the largest Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in Al-Anad, where around 800 families are located,” said Al-Mowalad. “During the last five days, some of the locals went to inspect the damage in their homes and returned to the camps because there was nothing left for them back there,” he added.

There are seven IDP camps in Sa'ada, containing a total of around 1,500 families who all need food, medicine, blankets and shelters. “Some people have fainted because of hunger, epidemics spread especially because of the four weeks siege, and now there is much help needed,” concluded Al-Mowalad.