UN warning on Yemen crisis

The UN refugee agency issued a new warning yesterday about the situation around Saada city in northern Yemen where fighting between government forces and rebels has displaced more than 35,000 people during the last three weeks.

"The situation is deteriorating by the day," UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said. "We are gravely concerned about the fate and well-being of the civilian population trapped inside the city as a result of fierce fighting between al- Houthi forces and the government troops."

A 12-hour curfew is restricting the movement of the local population and the internally displaced people, especially at night, according to the agency. Food reserves are running out and black market prices have risen dramatically in most of the districts affected by the fighting.

Those who can afford to pay are smuggled out of Saada city across the mountains to the neighbouring al-Jawf province. "We still do not have access to that part of Yemen, where we estimate as many as 4,000 internally displaced people have found shelter," Mahecic said.

All told, the conflict is estimated to have displaced some 150,000 people in the area since 2004.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 2 September 2009.