x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Red Crescent praised for Yemeni refugee aid

The UN has thanked the UAE Red Crescent for building a camp for Yemeni refugees.

NEW YORK // The UN has thanked the UAE Red Crescent for building a camp for Yemeni refugees. They were displaced by fighting between Yemeni government and rebel forces in a conflict that has forced an estimated 175,000 people from their homes. Sigrid Kaag, the regional head of the UN children's agency, Unicef, said the refugee centre, which opened on Wednesday, was an important step in easing the suffering of residents of Al Mazraq camp in Hajjah province.

The original camp houses more than double its intended capacity, with some 11,000 refugees and thousands more settled in makeshift shacks. Malnutrition, poor sanitation and cholera are major risks for occupants. Ms Kaag said: "The UAE, in the space of three weeks, has sent their teams through the UAE Red Crescent Society and have constructed an entirely new camp. "The quality is incomparably better. There are larger tents, better tents, better latrines, good water. They have really gone out of their way to construct a really good camp. What they are doing as well is they are sharing electricity, and trying to share water supplies with the old Mazraq camp, which also helps."

Unicef said the new camp, which is expected to house between 10,000 and 12,000 people, was of critical importance. One official, Thomas Davin, said that "hygiene is terrible, really, really terrible" in the overcrowded older facility. Al Mazraq has become the main camp for those fleeing fighting between government forces and fighters of the Zaydi Shia tribe, called al Houthis, in the mountainous neighbouring province of Sa'ada.

The majority of the displaced are children and women because men tend to stay behind to protect their homes and to fight. Ms Kaag warned malnutrition among children remained a key concern and several had died at the camp. "On the eve of Eid al Adha, one of the most important religious holidays in the Muslim world, children in northern Yemen have little to celebrate," she said. "They are living in difficult conditions, away from their homes and schools despite significant humanitarian relief efforts."

Many of the displaced had been forced to flee before, in some cases repeatedly, owing to northern Yemen's turbulent recent history. @Email:jreinl@thenational.ae