ICRC: ‘Rarely a moment of calm in Sana’a’

31 Oct

By:  Malak Shaher

& Garnet Roach , Yemen Times

Published:31-10-2011

Sana’a, Oct. 30 — “The sounds of gunfire and shelling have become part of the daily lives of Yemenis,” according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Health care, electricity, water and education in Sana’a have all been hard hit, or completely suspended, due to the ongoing conflict, while power cuts and “severe” water shortages are adding to the difficulties.

In other cities such as Taiz, “the unrest is either just as bad or even more worrying”, according to a new report by the. Power cuts and “severe” water shortages are adding to the difficulties.

“We are concerned that the violence in Sana’a and in other parts of the country has increased significantly,” said Eric Marclay, the head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen. “The face of the city has changed drastically,” he added.

The organization noted the fighting in several residential areas, specifically mentioning Al-Hasaba and Sofan areas of north Sana’a, which have seen intense fighting in the last few weeks.

Yusof Suroor, a resident of Al-Hasaba, said that his family had abandoned their home more than three times since last May. He lives with his family and his uncle’s family in a two -storey house.

“After we came back to our house, the fighting resumed. Yesterday, my little cousin was crying saying that we would die at any moment,” said Suroor who added that they saw shells near their house this morning.

Schools have also seen conflict, said the ICRC, with children’s lives being put at risk and their education severely disrupted. “Much harm could be avoided if weapons were kept out of public buildings,” it said.

“I did not send my two daughters to school at all this year,” said Amal Ali, a 30-year-old mother who also fled her house in Al-Hasaba.

“I am teaching them myself at home and will not send them to school before everything has settled down,” she said. “My children’s lives are more precious than studying.”

Along with the Yemen Red Crescent, the ICRC helped treat 1,500 injured people and retrieved 50 dead bodies in the past month, as violence in the capital escalated.

It said that “dozens” had been killed and hundreds injured in the past few weeks alone. The field hospital at Change Square put the number of deaths at 152 between September 18 and October 25 – including four children.

As well as the growing disruption to people’s lives, the ICRC added that roadblocks, closed streets and other obstacles had made it increasingly difficult to treat casualties in the growing conflict between government forces and those seeking the ouster of president Saleh.

Violent crackdowns and heavy shelling have also led to growing numbers of displaced people. “Hundreds of families have had to send their women and children to safer places, or had to leave their neighborhoods and live in nearby villages or with relatives in other parts of the city. Some do not even know if their house is still standing,” added Marclay.

The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent distributed food and household essentials to over 66,500 people in Abyan and Lahj over the past month as many were forced to flee their homes.

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