Yemen: Displaced families affected by years of protracted crisis still unable to return home

2 April, 2013
About 13,000 displaced people are still living in the two camps in Al-Mazraq, nearly a decade after the conflict in northern Yemen began. Credit: OCHA
About 13,000 displaced people are still living in the two camps in Al-Mazraq, nearly a decade after the conflict in northern Yemen began. Credit: OCHA

Hundreds of thousands of people in northern Yemen remain displaced due to the region’s ongoing conflict.  They are unable to return home due to the threat of landmines, massive destruction to infrastructure, such as homes, and the lack of access to basic services.

“Life is tough here, but I cannot go back because of insecurity in my hometown,” said 27-year-old Mohammed Jabir, who lives with his family in a camp in the Hajjah Governorate. “My home was destroyed in the war and there is no electricity or basic services, so I have to stay here for some time.”
 
Originally from the Sa’ada Governorate near the Saudi Arabian border, Jabir fled fighting between Yemeni armed forces, the Al-Houthi militants and Government-backed tribes. He arrived at the Al-Mazraq camp three years ago with his wife and four children.  
 
“I used to grow coffee and khat (a popular herbal stimulant) and take my produce to sell in Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Now I cannot because of the [security] situation.” To earn some money, he now runs a phone-charging business in the camp.
 
Two camps were set up in Al-Mazraq almost four years ago, and they are still home to approximately 13,000 displaced people. Like Jabir, many people had fled the conflict, which started nearly a decade ago. Even today, clashes between the armed groups continue despite a fragile ceasefire reached in February 2010.
 
According to UNHCR, more than 278,000 people remain displaced across the northern region, mainly in Sa’ada, Hajjah, Amran and Al-Jawf. Unlike southern Yemen, where over 80 per cent of the population displaced by conflict has returned home, only 11 per cent of the people in the north have returned. The majority of displaced people live with host families, often stretching the resources available to entire communities. 
 
UN agencies and humanitarian partners have been mobilizing resources to provide assistance to displaced families. They are also advocating improved access to displaced people so that humanitarian organizations can assess communities’ needs and reach people with essential aid. However, armed groups continue to block roads, hampering and delaying efforts to reach people in need, especially in Sa’ada, Hajjah, Amran and Al-Jawf.
 
Despite the challenges, aid organizations are providing food, water and health care, and supporting education programmes. The World Food Programme is providing all displaced families in the Al-Mazraq camps with food assistance. In Sa’ada, the World Health Organization is supporting nine health centres and vaccination campaigns targeting children. The International Committee of the Red Cross and Save the Children continue to improve sanitation by distributing water-purification tablets and building latrines in schools. 
 
Reporting by OCHA Yemen
 
More>>   Yemen Humanitarian Update (Source: Reliefweb)