More than 35,000 people have been displaced in Yemen’s Omran province, a local government refugee agency said on Wednesday, a day after Shi’ite Muslim tribal fighters overran the provincial capital following fighting that killed more than 200 people.
In an urgent appeal sent to relief organisations operating in Yemen, the head of the Yemeni government refugee agency in Omran reported “mass flight of Yemenis from Omran and surrounding areas after the city’s fall”.
“Based on the monitoring and follow-up that we have been doing, there are more than 35,000 people that have left for other areas in Omran or to the greater Sanaa area, Hajja and Mahaweet,” Mutahhar Yahya Abu Sheeha wrote in his appeal.
He said that most of these families were now staying in the open with no shelter and were in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Many others were still stuck in areas of confrontation unable to leave due to the clashes or because they cannot afford to pay for the costs of leaving, he said.
“We direct this urgent appeal to help these families and to provide emergency help to ensure basic needs of shelter and food and medical aid, and to help get these trapped families,” he said.
The fall of Omran represents a major blow to the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has been trying to stabilise the U.S.-allied country following nearly three years of turmoil that forced his predecessor to step down.
More than one million children in the country of 25 million suffer severe malnutrition, as the country struggles to pay for basic services and civil servants salaries. State news agency Saba said on Wednesday that Hadi has ordered austerity measures, including restricting international travel for senior officials, stopping new hiring of staff or office rental and cutting down on office expenses.
Hadi also ordered a review the cost of oil production and to review the operations of public sector establishment to ensure their economic feasibility.
The fall of Omran came less than a week after a ceasefire reached on June 23 between the Houthi tribesmen and the Yemeni army and allied Sunni tribal militiamen collapsed, with both sides blaming each other.
The Shi’ite Houthis, named after the tribe of their leader, said their fight was against rivals loyal to the Islamist Islah party, and they had no intention of attacking the capital Sanaa, just south of Omran.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen expressed concern over the fate of civilians in Omran, saying there were reports of more than 200 civilian deaths in recent days and thousands displaced.
“All parties to the conflict have a responsibility to make sure that civilians are spared from the fighting and that those who are affected by conflict are able to move to more secure areas,” Johannes Van Der Klaauw said in a statement received on Wednesday.