The Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) visited the country in October 2009, following the deteriorating situation in the northern part of Yemen, as well as additional needs related to the presence of refugees and the population’s overall vulnerability. In consultation with the main humanitarian actors in-country, the ERC decided to open an OCHA Country Office in Sanaa. This was done to support the RC and HCT in addressing the needs of the affected population by strengthening field coordination, IM, analysis and advocacy.
In a first phase, the office’s main objective was to create conditions conducive to humanitarian action, including establishing adequate coordination architecture at national and governorate level. The office also focused on strengthening advocacy to gain access to affected populations and increase awareness of the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
In the last three months of the year, following the opening of the office, the OCHA team established and maintained good working relationships with key partners, including Government counterparts, on issues related to humanitarian action. By the end of 2009, clusters were set up in Sanaa and the RC had been nominated HC. OCHA also supported the HCT in devising a joint strategy to respond to the crisis, culminating in the November 2009 launch of the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan as part of the global Consolidated Appeal. OCHA initiated discussions with key stakeholders about a possible Emergency Response Fund (ERF) in Sanaa to provide a quick, coordinated response to unforeseen emergencies and cover funding gaps.
The logistical set up of the office, including the procurement of necessary equipment, was completed before the end of 2009. However, OCHA had to rely on surge and temporary deployment mechanisms to ensure continued coverage of core coordination functions. Security conditions in Yemen, as well as the complexity of the operational and humanitarian context, create important human resource constraints. In this context, it has proven difficult to deliver suitable Arabic-speaking staff members on a medium- to long-term basis. In 2010, OCHA will continue its efforts to strengthen the existing structure and ensure continuity of ongoing activities.