UNHCR tackles problem of shelter in Yemen refugee camp

Making a Difference, 19 November 2012

© UNHCR/E.Leposky
Fatuma and her children are welcomed to their new home, provided by UNHCR with funding from ECHO.

KHARAZ REFUGEE CAMP, Yemen, 19 November (UNHCR) Five years after fleeing to Yemen to escape tribal fighting that killed her mother in Somaliland, Faduma finally feels she has a proper, secure home, giving her renewed hope for the future of her three children.

The family recently moved into one of 300 new brick and timber shelters built by UNHCR in the Kharaz Refugee Camp. The new homes, constructed with funding received from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) are now providing permanent shelter for some 1,260 refugees, in particular the elderly and disabled, some of whom had been living in tents for six years.

Kharaz, located in the desert in southern Yemen, is home to almost 20,000 Somali refugees who fled their homeland and made the dangerous sea crossing of the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. In the camp, UNHCR and its partners provide people like Faduma and her children with food, shelter, medical care and education.

Faduma, now 35-years-old, was three months pregnant when she set off with her children to Yemen and was beaten by smugglers during their crossing of the Gulf of Aden. She suffered a miscarriage and a severely damaged kidney which left her in need of hospitalization for several months. Upon recovery, she moved to Kharaz with UNHCR's help.

She felt safe in Kharaz and happy that her children were able to go to school despite having to live in a tent for four years under scorching and humid temperatures. This harsh environment aggravated her medical condition and placed a great strain on the wellbeing and development of her children. Faduma's new home, though spartan with a room and a latrine, is a vast improvement on what she had to endure before.

Lack of sufficient shelter has been a problem in Kharaz camp, compounded by limited space and a substantial increase in the camp population. Since the beginning of 2011 the camp population has increased by 28 percent and now has nearly 20,000 residents, 96 percent of them Somali. Many urban refugees have also moved there over the past year because of difficult economic and security conditions.

UNHCR, with the support of ECHO, has also constructed two communal blocks of latrines and a drainage system for the health centre. In addition, it has improved the camp water supply system with three electrical submersible pumps. The UN refugee agency has also been working closely with the government on an expansion plan for the camp. Considerable challenges remain, not least for 3,000 refugees still living in tents and makeshift shelters.

Yemen hosts some 223,000 Somali refugees who have fled drought, conflict, political instability and human rights violations in their homeland. New refugees from the Horn of Africa continue to arrive in Yemen and many have settled in Kharaz camp.

"UNHCR remains committed to do whatever is possible to continue to improve the living conditions in the camp," staid Naveed Hussain, UNHCR's representative in Yemen.

For Faduma and her children the results are now tangible. After moving into their new house Faduma observed: "Living in a tent caused me pain in my kidneys and it was difficult for my children. Now I can live and believe that life can improve for my children."

Teddy Leposky in Kharaz Refugee Camp

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Yemeni Province Starts Rebuilding as 100,000 Displaced Return

Life is slowly returning to normal in urban and rural areas of the southern Yemeni province of Abyan, where fighting between government forces and rebels caused major population displacements in 2011 and 2012.

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