Sa’ada refugees complain of ill-treatment by YRCA employees [Archives:2009/1225/Front Page]

January 15 2009

By: Mohamed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Jan. 14 ) A number of people living in Sa'ada refugee camps as a result of the war between the government and the Houthis in the governorate have complained to the Yemen Times about some members of the Yemeni Red Crescent Association's staff (YRCA) and the organizations that support it.

The refugees said that camp staff mistreat them and deprive them from aid donated by foreign humanitarian organizations including food and blankets, particularly during the winter. They added that they lack medical services in the four camps of Al-Anad, Ahmed Talh, Al-Ahsa and Sam.

Nashwan Aqabah of Saqain said that Talh camp supervisors dismissed him from the camp because he had demanded that the refugees' situation be improved and accused certain staff members of corruption and oppression against refugees, including women and children.

He confirmed that, whereas the camp once housed 300 refugees, only 70 remain because the YRCA has thrown out all the others who are now homeless. “We don't know where they went. They may be scattered in Sa'ada, Sana'a and the other cities. They may be eating from the garbage cans,” said Aqabah.

“What is more painful is that YRCA employees ordered by officials of Sa'ada throw out girls from the camps to live astray and homeless,” said Aqabah. “Moneera Mohammed Ali, 18, was thrown out of the camp although she supports her two little brothers after their father was killed during the war in Sa'ada. She has high blood pressure, and needs medical care as well as continuous follow up.”

Yemen Times holds a copy of the girl's medical report which shows her health problems. In addition, Yemen Times received a document which includes signatures of around 30 women who represent 274 children -boys and girls- who say they were affected by the non-humanitarian behavior of the YRCA in Sa'ada, according to the women who signed the document.

A tribal source in Sa'ada said in a statement to the Yemen Times that prostitution has spread notably among the youth in the nearby areas of some camps. The source said that the reasons behind that include families' poverty and hunger, particularly as their children lack the minimum level of food.

“YRCA staff keeps the aid which it receives from different humanitarian associations for itself and to serve influential figures from the ruling party. They don't deliver 10 percent of the aid,” said the source.

“The employees hide blankets and cooking utensils from the displaced people and offer them only a little which is not enough. Two men died due to severe cold by the advent of winter,” said the source.

Yemeni officials and activists had stated that humanitarian situation in Sa'ada is still difficult. The displaced families are still unable to come back to their villages in spite of the peace agreement between the government and the Houthis. They said that access to citizens in the affected areas far from the city of Sa'ada is still difficult due to the government's siege on some areas under the control of Houthis.

Several local and international humanitarian organizations expressed their concerns about the situation of citizens in the camps and demanded the government provide a secure passage to deliver food and medicine to the affected areas.

Although seven months have passed since President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared the war over in Sa'ada, affected citizens are still suffering from a lack of many essential needs in the markets as tribes have seized many trucks carrying food supplies to them.

Additionally, the ongoing feud between the Al-Esaimat of the Hashid tribe and the Harb Sufian of the Bakil tribe has complicated the situation in Sa'ada, and Sa'ada citizens – particularly those who are loyal to Houthis- are increasingly being cut off.

Eyewitnesses confirmed that tribal leaders block the passage of trucks including those which carry petrol, gas and food. They said that the tribes seize trucks and drivers when they learn that they belong to Sa'ada citizens and unload the items that they carry. They maintained that they set drivers free and allow them to take back the trucks empty.

The results of the war between the Al-Esaimat and the Harb Sufian has increased the crisis and caused repeated electricity cuts. The confrontations between the two tribes have left behind many people dead and injured. The war resulted from a dispute for agricultural lands on the border of the two tribes' land.

The price of 20 liters of petrol has increased to YR 2,000 -sometimes YR 1,300- as approved by the concerned parties due to the difficult roads that the oil trucks have to negotiate to reach Sa'ada. The price of gas has risen to YR 2,000 per cylinder. In some areas of Sa'ada, it is difficult to obtain gas at all.

With regard to the reconstruction of the governorate, Yemen Times received a report of a survey conducted from Sa'ada Reconstruction Fund on post-war damage in the governorate. The report says that so far 7,180 houses, 1,421 farms, 94 schools, 8 clinics, 4 police stations, 3 courts, 3 public buildings, 267 mosques and another 90 houses have been recorded as damaged during the fighting. In total, 9,027 buildings were damaged or destroyed.

The report didn't mention the areas under the Houthis' control, according to a tribal source. Consequently, the survey committee still needs more time to survey the rest of the damage in the whole governorate.

The Yemen Times called the YRCA and asked them about the refugee camp residents' complaints, but officials in the association did not respond to the accusations. Rusli Al-Haisami, director of YRCA, said that journalists can visit the camps and see the situation there but he confirmed that they should have a prior permission from the security authorities.