Aid convoy from Saudi Arabia

The first UN aid convoy from Saudi Arabia to northern Yemen –delayed for several weeks – is expected to set off today carrying tents, mattresses, blankets and other items for about 2,000 people stranded in the border area as a result of the Houthi conflict.

It had been due to leave on Friday but its departure was again postponed because of security concerns.

The UN said yesterday it is trying to establish contact with the rebels to secure safe passage for aid agencies. A UN employee was injured on Thursday when a relief convoy was attacked by Houthi rebels in Jawf province, the official Yemeni news agency 
reported. It said the rebels fired at UN cars which were with the aid convoy, but armed citizens hurried to the area and exchanged fire with the rebels.

The British government announced yesterday that it is donating £2 million ($3.2 million) to support those driven from their homes by the fighting. The money will go to the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as to UN agencies and non-governmental organisations working under the UN Flash Appeal for Yemen.

Douglas Alexander, Britain’s International Development Secretary, said: “I am extremely concerned by the serious deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in the north of Yemen; the UK continues to lobby for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. I re-emphasise the calls made by the Foreign Secretary and our international partners, for both sides to halt the violence immediately and to facilitate humanitarian access.”

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 10 October 2009.

UPDATE, October 11: The aid convoy from Saudi Arabia was delayed overnight at Alb on the border. AFP says Yemeni and Saudi officials were “unable to agree on border procedures”. Meanwhile, the UN’s World Food Programme has denied thereport by the official Yemeni news agency that one of its convoys was attacked in al-Jawf province on Thursday.

UPDATE, October 12: The aid convoy from Saudi Arabia has finally got through.