World News

UNHCR convoy from Saudi Arabia to take aid to Yemen

GENEVA (Reuters) - The U.N. refugee agency plans to send aid supplies for the first time from Saudi Arabia into northern Yemen on Saturday to help some 2,000 people stranded near the border after fleeing fighting.

Its aid convoy carrying tents, mattresses, blankets and other items was delayed this week while UNHCR officials sought security clearances from all sides.

“Our cross-border operation to deliver assistance from Saudi Arabia to the internally displaced persons near the border is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday,” spokesman Andrej Mahecic of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees told a news briefing.

U.N. agencies say Yemen’s conflict has displaced about 150,000 Yemenis since it first flared in 2004.

But limited access to the war zone means they have no clear idea how many have fled their homes since the army began a major offensive against Shi’ite rebels on Aug. 11.

Saudi Arabia and the United States have contributed $1 million and $1.2 million, respectively, towards UNHCR’s emergency appeal of $5 million for Yemen this year, he said.

Every day scores of Yemeni civilians straggle into the scorching, sandblown Al-Mazraq camp near the Saudi border, fleeing raging battles. New arrivals reaching the camp in Hajjah governorate have told the UNHCR the fighting in Saada had spread to southern districts as more and more displaced are fleeing from these parts, particularly from Haidan district.

Nearly 200 people arrive at Al-Mazraq each day while others stream into the capital Sanaa, Mahecic said.

“Many of them walk, sometimes for four to five days, and arrive exhausted and in a state of depression,” he said.

Editing by Alison Williams