While government announces unclear rescue projectsSa’ada refugees still seek urgent humanitarian assistance [Archives:2008/1189/Front Page]

September 11 2008

By: Mohammed Bin Sallam
SA'ADA, Sept. 10 ) Occupants of Al-Anad refugee camp, accommodating thousands of displaced residents, and other camps at the Yemeni border with Saudi Arabia are complaining of bad living conditions that continue to worsen over time, tribal sources from the Sa'ada governorate said on Wednesday.

The same sources said that relief agencies were not providing aid directly to some refugee camps, but that most of the humanitarian assistance was delivered to governmental agencies. These agencies were showing nepotism in aid distribution, and depriving families suspected of sympathizing with Abdulmalik Al-Houthi of their shares of such humanitarian aids.

The sources said that, as winter draws nearer, occupants of refugee camps need credible humanitarian attention, not false media speeches. They lack many basic necessities, healthcare and food.

“Through the official media outlets, we hear about a government project to rescue affected residents and reconstruct the war-ravaged areas, but we are not optimistic that the government may make progress in this regard,” the tribal sources added.

A government source announced on Tuesday that efforts to reconstruct the war-torn areas and enhance security and stability in the governorate were resumed just a few days after the relevant governmental committee halted its activities on the ground. The committee's head has returned to Sana'a after he was fired and replaced by another official, according to media reports.

Since last Sunday, the government has witnessed repeated visits by senior government officials including Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security Affairs Rashad Al-Alimi and other government ministers who declared a plan for developing projects in the governorate for a total cost of YR 60 billion.

Minister of Local Administration Abdulqader Ali Hilal said the government had ordered provision of food aids for 14,000 displaced residents for a total cost of YR 300 million.

He pointed out that the assessment process, carried out by the governmental committee, concluded that up to 6,700 public and private facilities had been damaged during the four-year fighting between the army and Houthi gunmen. The committee estimated the cost of restoring such damaged facilities at nearly YR 1 billion.

Hilal went on to say that the government approved YR 10 billion for reconstruction and development projects in the Sa'ada governorate.

Houthis blamed for hindering peace efforts

Deputy Prime Minister Al-Alimi held Houthis accountable for hindering progress of peace efforts in areas where the fighting between army personnel and Houthis took place over the past years. He added that Houthis are not receptive to government's initiatives, pointing out that they refused to abandon their mountaintop positions.

During his visit to the Sa'ada governorate on Monday, which is the fourth one since the war first broke out between the army and Houthis in June 2004, Al-Alimi threatened to stop all the efforts to reconstruct affected areas and compensate citizens whose property was damaged during the fighting, if Houthis were not receptive to these efforts.

Al-Alimi further accused Houthis of building trenches and taking over other strategic mountaintop positions in areas from which military troops have withdrawn. “Houthis still have control of 60 schools and this signifies their intention to maintain insecurity and instability in the governorate,” the official said.

A Houthi source denied the charges, which Al-Alimi attributed to Abdulmalik Al-Houthi and his followers. The source told NewsYemen.net by phone that “such charges are baseless and inauthentic.”

The Houthis' representative, Sheikh Saleh Habra, described the government's promises to enhance peace and security in the war-affected governorate and reconstruct damaged villages as lacking in credibility.

“The government wants to breach the Doha-brokered ceasefire agreement, which both sides signed last February,” Habra noted, criticizing what he described as “a government's attempt to involve Sa'ada residents in a new civil war.”