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




UNHCR country pages

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

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.

But since last July, as hostilities subsided and security began to improve, more than 100,000 internally displaced people (IDP) have returned to their homes in the province, or governorate. Most spent more than a year in temporary shelters in neighbouring provinces such as Aden and Lahj.

Today, laughing children once more play without fear in the streets of towns like the Abyan capital, Zinjibar, and shops are reopening. But the damage caused by the conflict is visible in many areas and the IDPs have returned to find a lack of basic services and livelihood opportunities as well as lingering insecurity in some areas.

There is frustration about the devastation, which has also affected electricity and water supplies, but most returnees are hopeful about the future and believe reconstruction will soon follow. UNHCR has been providing life-saving assistance since the IDP crisis first began in 2011, and is now helping with the returns.

Amira Al Sharif, a Yemeni photojournalist, visited Abyan recently to document life for the returnees.

Yemeni Province Starts Rebuilding as 100,000 Displaced Return

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

The port city of Aden in southern Yemen has long been a destination for refugees, asylum-seekers and economic migrants after making the dangerous sea crossing from the Horn of Africa. Since May 2011, Aden also has been providing shelter to tens of thousands of Yemenis fleeing fighting between government forces and armed groups in neighbouring Abyan governorate.

Most of the 157,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) from Abyan have found shelter with friends and relatives, but some 20,000 have been staying in dozens of public schools and eight vacant public buildings. Conditions are crowded with several families living together in a single classroom.

Many IDPs expected their displacement would not be for long. They wish to return home, but cannot do so due to the fighting. Moreover, some are fearful of reprisals if they return to areas where many homes were destroyed or severely damaged in bombings.

UNHCR has provided emergency assistance, including blankets, plastic sheeting and wood stoves, to almost 70,000 IDPs from Abyan. Earlier this year, UNHCR rehabilitated two buildings, providing shelter for 2,000 people and allowing 3,000 children, IDPs and locals, to resume schooling in proper classrooms. UNHCR is advocating with the authorities for the conversion of additional public buildings into transitional shelters for the thousands of IDPs still living in schools.

Photographer Pepe Rubio Larrauri travelled to Aden in March 2012 to document the day-to-day lives of the displaced.

Shelter for the Displaced in Yemen

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