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The plight of the 1.3 million internally displaced in Yemen

22 Jul 2015


Mohand, 8, was forced to flee his home Sa'ada with his family. He now lives in a school in the capital, Sana'a, which hosts more than 200 displaced people.
Photo: OCHA/Charlotte Cans/June 2015.
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Since March, close to 1.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes. The luckier ones found shelter with friends or relatives. But, sadly, many had no choice but to settle in makeshift structures, public buildings, caves or in the open.

The escalation of the conflict in Yemen since March 2015, has had a devastating impact on Yemeni women, children and men. In the past four months, the violence has forced close to 1.3 million people to abandon their homes.

The number of casualties continues to rise. So far, more than 18,000 people have been reported injured, and at least 3,800 people have been killed.

Many of the internally displaced people (IDPs) have experienced multiple displacements by now, as the current violence follows years of turmoil in Yemen. Now 21 out of 22 governorates are hosting displaced people, with most of them coming from Aden, Al Dhale’e and Sa’ada.

Most displaced families are reportedly living with relatives or friends, many of whom are themselves struggling to survive. Others had no choice but to settle in public buildings, makeshift structures, in caves or in the open, under extreme heat. Overcrowding, lack of safe water or proper sanitation services, and the suspension of waste collection are exposing thousands of IDPs and host communities to major public health risks. A dengue fever outbreak has already affected nine governorates, with Aden continuing to be the worst affected.

The strain on host communities and local authorities is tremendous, as resources are stretched to breaking point. Even before the escalation of violence, just under half of all Yemenis lived in poverty, many of them with little or no access to basic services. Today 21.1 million people - or four out of five inhabitants - need humanitarian assistance.

Restrictions on commercial imports, lack of fuel and insecurity have pushed the health system to nearly collapse. The lack of reliable electricity supply, medical equipment and medicines has rendered most heath centres unable to operate. Existing safety nets and protective supports at the community levels are eroding and individuals are having to adopt dangerous coping strategies to survive.

Yemeni authorities and aid groups continue their efforts to deliver life-saving assistance. More than 4.4 million people received some form of help over the past four months. But basic needs across Yemen are far outpacing the ability of groups to deliver aid.

In July, the Yemen Humanitarian Country Team promulgated a Guidance Note on the Emergency Response to Internal Displacement in Yemen, stressing that the response to the needs of IDPs and host communities in Yemen is based on the core humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and operational independence and are informed by the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and in relevant chapters of the 2013 National Policy on IDPs in Yemen. It identifies the immediate programming priorities: protection (including child protection and gender based violence), shelter/non-food items, food security and agriculture, health (including reproductive health), nutrition, and water and sanitation.