SANAA, Yemen, Nov. 2 (UPI) -- The number of refugees fleeing the Horn of Africa to Yemen has increased by 40 percent so far in 2009 compared with the previous year, U.N. officials said.
Rocco Nuri, an external affairs officer at the U.N. Refugee Agency, said his offices have witnessed a substantial increase in the number of Africans seeking refuge in Yemen during the first 10 months of the year.
"This is a stunning 40 percent increase in comparison with the same 10-month period last year when 40,540 boat-carried people arrived," he told the U.N. humanitarian news agency, IRIN. "(This year), 281 people drowned and another 152 have been missing and presumed dead after their boats capsized in the Gulf of Aden."
U.N. officials estimate the number of refugees is likely to reach 70,000 by the end of the year as the winter season creates calmer seas in the region.
Refugees are fleeing the Horn of Africa in part due to violence on Somalia. Drought and poverty are also among the top contributors to mass displacement, the report said.
Yemen, for its part, is dealing with simmering conflict with Shiite al-Houthi rebels. While most of the violence is concentrated in the northern provinces, international aid groups warn of a humanitarian emergency due to a rise in the number of internally displaced persons.