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Yemen Humanitarian crisis deepens as more flee

250,000 now uprooted in five-year conflict: UNHCR

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Fighting in northern Yemen is spreading and the five-year conflict has now driven 250,000 people from their homes, deepening the humanitarian crisis, the United Nations refugee agency said on Friday.

The number of displaced in the Arab world's poorest country has doubled since August when the latest round of fighting between the government and Houthi rebels erupted, it said.

"The fighting has gradually moved from Saada city and its surroundings towards the northwest," Andrej Mahecic, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told a news briefing.

This had led to "a steady influx" of around 1,000 families, some 7,000 people, arriving in Hajjah province each week over the past six weeks, he said. Most families were from Saada.

Fighting between Yemeni troops and Houthi rebels, who say the Zaidi Shiite minority suffers discrimination and neglect, has flared on and off since 2004 in Saada province.

Aid agencies including the UNHCR and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) say that fighting prevents them from delivering aid to Saada province.

It is increasingly difficult for the displaced to make ends meet and get access to health and education, Mahecic said.

"Most of them fled leaving behind almost all of their belongings and cattle which was the pillar of their livelihoods and primary source of income," he said.

The lack of adequate shelter for the displaced in Hajjah is a major concern, despite the existence of three camps, he said.

"Many displaced Yemenis are in makeshift sites which have mushroomed along the roads leading to the camps," Mahecic said, adding that the situation was also difficult in Amran province.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at an international conference on Yemen in London on Wednesday, said that the country of 23 million must act to push through reforms to tackle the root causes of poverty and instability fuelling militancy in the country.

Yemeni rebels involved in a cross-border conflict with Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that Saudi air and artillery attacks had continued despite a truce offer by the dissidents to the kingdom. Riyadh declared victory over the rebels on Wednesday following the ceasefire offer from the insurgents, who said they had withdrawn from Saudi territory.

The fighting has gradually moved from Saada city and its surroundings towards the northwest

Andrej Mahecic, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees