Dubai (AFP) – Intensified hostilities in Yemen have forced more than 32,000 people to flee their homes in the past two months, the United Nations refugee agency has said.
They join some two million Yemenis already displaced by the war, the UNHCR said in a statement on Thursday.
“The arrival of winter in Yemen, when temperatures can dip below zero degrees Celsius across a number of governorates, has worsened the hardship for many, particularly those displaced and living in informal settlements exposed to the elements with little protection against the cold,” it said.
UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo said flare-ups in fighting in the rebel-held capital Sanaa, as well as the provinces of Hodeida on the Red Sea and oil-rich Shabwa in the south, had driven the displacements.
“We continue to see correlations between intensified hostilities and civilian casualties + displacement,” Mantoo said on Twitter Friday.
More than 9,000 people have been killed in Yemen since a Saudi-led military coalition intervened in 2015 against the Huthi rebels with the aim of restoring the country’s internationally recognised government to power.
The coalition intensified its air campaign against the Huthis around Sanaa and on the country’s west coast in December, after Saudi Arabia intercepted a ballistic missile the rebels had fired at its capital Riyadh.
On the ground, Emirati-trained government troops and coalition forces have been advancing along the Red Sea coast in a drive to retake the rebel-held port city of Hodeida, which is a key entry point for humanitarian supplies.
But the coalition has met strong resistance from the Iran-backed rebels, who continue to hold Sanaa and most of northern Yemen.
In mid-December, government forces retook Beihan district in Shabwa province from the Huthis, their last stronghold in the province.
“The latest violence has further exacerbated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people -– around three quarters of the total population –- in need of humanitarian assistance,” the UNHCR said.