Muslim fighters in north Yemen declare readiness to open humanitarian corridors for thousands of civilians driven out of their homes by fierce battles in the region.
In a statement posted on the Internet, the Houthi fighters said they would secure routes linking the camps for the displaced, but urged that the corridors be directly controlled by the United Nations.
The anti-government forces demanded a guarantee that the authorities would not use the routes to send in reinforcements for the Yemeni troops in the north.
The UN appealed on Sunday for the protection of the homeless civilians, in line with the international humanitarian law, warning that women and children accounted for 80 percent of the most vulnerable.
The feuding sides must “allow us to reach those who need assistance, rapidly and without hindrance,” the world body’s humanitarian chief, John Holmes, emphasized at the end of a three-day visit.
Some 150,000 people have been displaced or affected by the conflict since 2004, more than one-third of whom have fled since the army’s latest offensive against the Houthi fighters in the northern Saada province.
The Yemeni army launched a massive operation near the border with Saudi Arabia on August 11 to crush Houthi Muslims who accuse the government of neglect and discrimination against Yemen’s Houthi minority, accounting for almost 30 percent of the country’s population.
A Yemeni-based UN refugee officer, Andrew Knight, said about 65,000 displaced people are in the northwestern province of Hajjah, and an estimated 55,000 people are still living in Saada, mostly in abandoned buildings, in the mountains, and on roadsides in the war zone, The Los Angeles Times reported.
This is while Mazraq camp in Hajjah, the only UN camp for the displaced Yemenis, has no running water, electricity or even bathrooms, leaving about 40 percent of camp residents suffering from diarrhea. Nearly 20 percent of the children are malnourished in the relief center, where the spread of malaria has become a growing concern.
The Sana’a government has been plagued by massive protests in the south, where people are calling for a return to their formerly independent South Yemen, prior to the unification of the north and the south in 1990.