Contradictory information regarding President Saleh’s resignation continues to circulate.
The Al-Houthi (AH) are in control of Sa’adah governorate.
WFP has re-established a presence in Sa’adah. A UNHCR-UNICEF-WFP team met with the de facto authorities on behalf of the HCT. The discussions pertained to IDP assistance and operational expansion outside of the security belt of Sa’adah town to include an additional nine districts. The Al Houthi (AH) representatives indicated their willingness to work with the humanitarian agencies.
The WFP wounded staff member has been discharged from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
Yemenia Joint Venture expressed readiness to resume flights to Sa’adah. However a technical assessment mission planned to fly to Sa’adah was denied clearance today..
Operations are minimally affected. March distributions were completed satisfactorily and the April distribution is prepared and pending. Available in country stocks are allowing for a sizeable margin of manoeuvre in the short term.
The situation is tense but remains manageable for staff and operations. WFP continues to closely monitor and review the situation, as it develops to ensure the safety of the staff and continuation of operations.
Humanitarian Country Team and Security Management meetings are held more frequently on an as-needed basis.
1. Situation Update
Civil unrest in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya instigated similar reactions in Yemen. In a matter of weeks all of Yemen’s diverse opposition groups aligned against President Ali Abdullah Saleh putting the Yemeni Youths for Change Movement, the Joint Meeting Party (opposition), Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), AH in the north, and Al-Hirak in the south in alliance. Anti-government demonstrations across the country, particularly in the governorates of Aden, Taiz, Ibb and in the capital city of Sana’a escalated and gained momentum.
In a turn of events, some 52 anti-government protesters were killed last Friday by pro-government supporters. The deaths of the protesters incited a ground swell of support for the anti-government movement and the declaration of support for the protesters by key military commanders, Ministers, foreign emissaries and other governmental figures. President Saleh imposed a 30-day state of emergency although no curfew or tangible effects have been put into place.
Of those to declare support for the protesters was Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, a top military leader in charge of the north-western region. After announcing his commitment to protecting protesters, Al Ahmar sent soldiers to protect the anti-government demonstration in Sana’a.
In response to the ongoing unrest, President Saleh effectively dissolved the government by dismissing his cabinet. The cabinet was asked to temporarily maintain their positions and expedite regular business until a new government could be formed. The opposition rejected the President’s concession.
AH remains in control of Sa’adah governorate and claims control over considerable areas of the neighboring northern governorates: Al-Jawf and Marib.
2. Security Update
In Aden, Sub-Office non-essential staff was relocated amidst tense and violent clashes in the area; only critical staff remains and are following the daily advice of UNDSS.
WFP has sent a letter to all parties in Sa’adah as a reminder of the humanitarian principles and requested protection for all humanitarian assets. WFP is carefully assessing a staff return to Sa’adah.
Only ICRC and MSF are maintaining an international staff presence in Sa’adah. Islamic Relief (WFP cooperating partner) has maintained sufficient national staff presence in town to allow for the next distribution cycle.
A 10-truck convoy carrying WFP food stock was seized by a local community. The commodities were distributed within the local area to families considered to be in need of assistance.
3. Operation Update
Almost three months stock is available for the Sa’adah and refugee operations. The other operations remain likewise unaffected.
Domestic food commodity prices have substantially increased since the beginning of the year and are well above the 2005-2007 average. Since mid-March, the price of vegetable oil increased by 40 Yemeni Riyal (YR) (11 percent), wheat flour increased by 50YR (45 percent), and rice increased by 70YR (22 percent).
WFP is closely monitoring the food supply chain. Recent sizeable local procurements of wheat flour indicate that the supply situation remains fair and manageable.
From mid to late March, the YR dropped from 214 to 219 YR against the US Dollar. The currency is holding at 219YR. There is a national shortage of cash availability and a parallel market is now operating. In this market the US dollar is worth 230 YR.
The WFP CO is prepared to support new emergency needs brought on by possibly impending conflicts.
EMOP 200039 (Sa’adah Operations):
The situation in Sa’adah is currently quiet. Minimal IDP movement has been reported at this stage.
The March distribution was completed for the vast majority of the Sa’adah operation, the exception being the distribution in Sa’adah Town, which was cut short by one day due to the emergency relocation of humanitarian staff. This one day shortening impaired the ability to deliver the remaining 42 mt of food commodities and affected 200 households.
March distributions in Harrad, Amran and Sana’a were unaffected and there are no concerns for the April distributions so far.
PRRO 200044 (Refugee Assistance):
Three months of stock were pre-positioned in the Kharaz refugee camp in the south for monthly distributions. Thus far in-camp distributions have remained successfully ongoing and the operation has been unaffected.
The March distribution ran successfully from the 15th to 23rd. WFP reached 21,651 beneficiaries (3,093 households).
PRRO 200038 (Assistance to Vulnerable Populations):
The operation is under-funded for what is becoming a more and more critical operation considering the developing context. Available funding will only cover the most severely food insecure governorates (Rayma, Hajja and Amran) although a further five governorates are in critical need of coverage as well. The operation is scheduled to expand to a further four governorates in July.
The nutrition activities under this operation remain ongoing and unaffected. The CO is in close coordination with IFPRI for the evaluation of the Cash Pilot Scheme.
Recent generous contributions of US$ 6.3 million from SRAC and US$ 5.2 million from the UAE were received to support this operation. The funding will allow to fully implement the Safety Net distributions in the 3 most food insecure Governorates (Rayma, Hajjah and Ibb). Amran will receive slightly more than 60 percent of the planned requirements. The nutrition component is fully funded up to September.
CP (Girls’ Education):
The Country Programme has been suspended since mid-2010 due to severe funding shortfalls. No distributions or activities are planned for March or April.
SO (Humanitarian Air Services):
WFP is responsible for the coordination of the humanitarian flights in Yemen. This is a critical operation that is vital to maintain so as to organize any relocation from Sa’adah and possibly other places of concentration of UN staff.
Access to Sa’adah is being and will continue to be impaired and complicated in the coming weeks by weather conditions (i.e. seasonal rain, fog and dust storms).
WFP CO and Logistics Unit have arranged for a stand-by evacuation flight for international staff.