Thousands of Yemeni Civilians Caught in Conflict Need Protection, UN Says

The U.N. refugee agency reports it is scaling up its operation in Yemen to meet the urgent protection needs of thousands of Yemenis displaced by fighting in the strategic port city of Hodeidah.

More than 300,000 people have fled their homes since the Saudi-led coalition began its military offensive in June to capture the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah.

So far, U.N. and international pressure has prevented an all-out attack on the port itself, a situation that most agree would be calamitous. About 80 percent of all food and humanitarian aid is imported through this Red Sea port. Were it to be knocked out, the U.N. fears this could trigger a famine throughout the country.

The conflict has escalated significantly over the past three months. The U.N. refugee agency reports this is increasing the dangers for civilians trying to leave conflict areas. UNHCR spokesman, William Spindler, said some people are particularly vulnerable and in need of urgent protection.

Displaced Yemeni students attend a class in a tent at a refugee camp located between Marib and Sanaa, Yemen, March 29, 2018.

“Most prominent among them are the specific needs of children who may be separated from their families, and of women, who may be at risk of sexual harassment and violence either during flight or when living in overcrowded settings,” Spindler said.

“Another common concern is the loss of livelihoods, exacerbated by a decline in purchasing power due to increasing food prices, and the decline in value of the Yemeni currency, the riyal,” Spindler added.

Spindler said UNHCR and partners have identified more than 70,000 of the most vulnerable displaced people throughout the country. He says they are being provided with a wide-range of assistance, including multipurpose cash, rental subsidies and referrals to specialized services, such as psychological counseling and legal assistance.

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