UN sends first humanitarian aid to Yemen war displaced | world | Hindustan Times
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UN sends first humanitarian aid to Yemen war displaced

world Updated: Oct 11, 2009 21:10 IST

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The United Nations sent on Sunday its first shipment of humanitarian aid across the Saudi Arabian border to thousands of Yemenis displaced by war, ending a bureaucratic impasse, officials said.

"Yes, finally we were able to get it through," UN High Commissioner for Refugees official Sultan Khilji told AFP by telephone from the Saudi-Yemen border at Alb.

Fierce fighting between government forces and Muslim Shiite rebels has raged since August 11 in northern Yemen, costing hundreds of lives and forcing 55,000 people to flee their homes.

Differences between Saudi and Yemeni officials locked up the aid at the border crossing on Saturday, preventing a crucial load of tents, mattresses, soap and other necessities from being delivered to about 3,000 displaced.

The displaced are mostly along the five kilometres (three miles) of road between the Saudi border and Mandaba.

The United Nations and other aid workers had been unable to supply them from the south side of the fighting in an area located around Saada in Yemen's northwest.

In the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Sunday, UN humanitarian chief John Holmes appealed for the protection of displaced civilians.

"Civilians are at high risk from the conflict and it is women and children, who comprise about 80 percent of the displaced population, who are most vulnerable," Holmes told a news conference.

"I urge all involved in the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians in line with international humanitarian law, to allow us to reach those who need assistance, rapidly and without hindrance, and to enable civilians to leave insecure areas."

Yemen's army launched "Operation Scorched Earth" on August 11 in a bid to root out the Zaidi Shiite rebels in the rugged mountainous northern provinces of Saada and Amran, triggering a humanitarian crisis.

"I am particularly concerned about the people whom we are unable to reach, especially those who are trapped in the conflict zones," Holmes said after concluding a three-day mission to Yemen.

"I am trying to make sure that the international community is aware of the seriousness of what is happening and of the need to make sure that we have enough resources to respond."

A 23.7-million-dollar emergency appeal issued in response to this crisis has received about 10 million dollars in commitments and pledges since it was launched in early September, according to the UN.

Overall, an estimated 150,000 people have been displaced in northern Yemen since the conflict first erupted in 2004.