YEMEN: Emergency aid delivery in Al-Jawf challenged by insecurity


Tribal conflicts, roadblocks, hijacking and unexploded mines are hindering effective aid delivery to thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Al-Jawf governorate, say aid workers and community leaders.

"Movement restrictions due to insecurity have repeatedly prevented assistance from reaching IDPs in Al-Jawf. While access to southern districts remains relatively secure, it is more difficult to reach the north so accessibility must be reassessed daily," Victoria Stanski, an emergency and post-crisis officer with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said.

A 16 September report by the US Agency for International Development stated that since the resumption of fighting in August 2009, more than 13,000 IDPs - or nearly 80 percent of the governorate's displaced population - had received food assistance.

There are about 11,000 IDPs in Al-Jawf registered by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and its partners, but aid agencies estimate the total at 18,000.

IDPs moved from Sa'ada to Al-Jawf to escape heavy fighting between Al-Houthi rebels and the government. Most are reportedly living in open shelters near host communities and have very limited access to services or assistance.

According to a July update for the Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen 2010 by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), aid agencies have limited sustained access to many IDPs, particularly in Sa'ada, Al-Jawf and Amran governorates, although some aid is getting through.

IOM delivers shelter, hygiene items, and non-food items to IDPs and vulnerable groups in Al-Jawf with support from partner agencies in the area. There is not a regular schedule for aid distribution, according to Amr Taha, IOM's emergency coordinator, but kits are standardized according to agreements with other aid agencies.

Taha added that insecurity also restricted IDPs' movements between their settlements and local markets.

"Al-Jawf is one of the most remote and inaccessible governorates in Yemen, so the government maintains a limited presence as a result of its limited resources," he said.

Malnutrition fears

The former IDP Executive Unit representative in the governorate, Hassan Hadra, warned about malnutrition among IDP children as revenge killings and other security incidences hamper regular delivery of food aid.

"Several child IDPs are suffering acute or moderate malnutrition as a result of access problems. Immediate screening is required to assess the nutrition situation of child IDPs in Al-Jawf," Hadra said.

The governorate is notorious for complicated revenge killings, some of which date back 50 years, according to Hadra.

"Conflicting tribes never consider the suffering of IDPs. We find it too difficult to persuade them to allow aid workers to reach IDPs with needed relief items," Hadra said.

"Three months ago, the Yemeni government stopped registering IDPs because there was not enough aid," IOM's Taha told IRIN, adding that "the verification process was suspended in Al-Jawf amid lack of infrastructure and security".

According to Manaa al-Jabali, a police officer at Al-Jawf security department, the role of policemen in the governorate is challenged by citizen's illiteracy and their possession of various types of small arms.

"Several projects including the IDP verification process have been suspended as a result of security problems in the governorate," he said.

IOM and Adventist Development & Relief Agency International (ADRA) are the two major agencies in the field. The former operates in the north of the governorate and the latter in the south.

Coping mechanisms

"To avoid security incidents, we send in low-profile staff familiar with the area and we change their routines and [schedules] often. They must remain aware of their surroundings at all times," IOM's Stanski said.

All activities are carried out by a dedicated team familiar with all key players, who balance an understanding of cultural negotiations, tribal dynamics and political domains with humanitarian aid objectives, Becky de Graaff, acting country director of ADRA in Yemen, told IRIN.

"ADRA believes that committed peacekeeping efforts are still able to make a difference for IDPs in Al-Jawf and should not be abandoned easily," De Graaff said.

Source:IRIN News