Sadaa war displaces 175,000 Yemenis

03 December 2009

Conflict will hit fragile economy

The number of Yemenis displaced by the conflict in the northern Sadaa province has reached 175,000, a senior source at the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) tells MEED.

As recently as August, the UN Children’s Fund said the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) was as low as 100,000. This suggests that the escalating conflict has displaced 75,000 people in four months, a 75 per cent increase.

Yemen’s Sanaa government has been waging war against a group of Houthi tribesmen since August, when President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced a new “scorched earth” campaign of aerial bombing to uproot the Zayadi Shia rebels.

This most recent operation is part of a wider conflict since 2004. Saleh’s government says the Houthi rebels are trying to install a Shia theocracy in the north of the country.

Houthi spokesmen have repeatedly claimed their part in the conflict is defensive and that they have been discriminated against on religious and tribal grounds by the Sunni-dominated government.

In October, Saudi Arabia entered the fray after Houthis fled into the kingdom. On 2 December, the Saudi Ministry of Defence said the country had been cleared of tribesmen.

A senior government source tells MEED that an end to the war in Sadaa is “nowhere in sight”, adding that the country’s already fragile economy will “undoubtedly” be severely hurt by the conflict. The government faces a second uprising in the south and an increasing cash crisis as oil revenues fall.

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