Briefing Notes, 16 November 2012
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 16 November 2012, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
In southern Yemen, UNHCR is seeing growing numbers of internally displaced people returning to their homes. Over the past four months, and working with the Yemeni authorities, we have helped more than 80,000 people go home, and further returns are on-going. This is the first significant displacement decline since May 2011 when fighting between government troops and militants erupted in the south of Yemen.
The decline in displacement follows the re-establishing of government authority in the southern province of Abyan in July. Initially, returns were slow due to the widespread presence of landmines and unexploded ordinance, as well as extensive damage to infrastructure in several areas. In many cases people also wanted to see more evidence of improvements in the security situation. However, through de-mining efforts on the part of the Yemeni Government and other improvements in the security situation, more families are now making the decision to return.
Many of the returns have been from Aden, where of the 25,000 IDPs who were sheltering in schools and other public buildings, some 23,500 have now returned to Abyan. This has allowed normal classroom teaching to resume, although schools still need repair work after having served as IDP collective sites for over a year.
The 1,500 IDPs still living in Aden schools will be relocated into eight buildings (one in each district of Aden). UNHCR, with the agreement of the government, is rehabilitating these eight buildings to serve as temporary accommodation.
The government has been covering transportation costs for people returning to Abyan (of around $70 per family). Security personnel are manning checkpoints along the route to ensure safe passage, and in Abyan itself UNHCR and other agencies are providing further support. As the lead international agency responding to IDP and returnee needs for shelter we have distributed shelter repair kits to some 32,000 persons, and non-food items packages to 33,000 persons. These packages include mattresses, blankets, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting and tools. We plan to help 180,000 persons in Abyan with shelter and non-food relief kits. Currently, the challenges include widespread damage to property and infrastructure, a still fragile security situation, and patchiness in provision of public services. Continuing international support and stable security will be essential for returns to become sustainable, and particularly if internal displacement in southern Yemen is to be brought to an end during 2013.
Meanwhile in northern Yemen more than 300,000 people are still displaced from the conflict that has been running on and off since 2004 between Yemeni Government forces and al Houthis. Insecurity continues to hinder returns there, while tribal clashes earlier in 2012 generated over 6,000 new IDPs in the northern governorates.
Despite the challenges it faces, Yemen remains one of the most generous refugee hosting countries with over 232,000 refugees, mainly Somalis. While 2011 saw a record new influx of 103,000 refugees and migrants, so far in 2012 there have been over 90,500 new arrivals, mainly Ethiopians.
UNHCR Yemen carries out its crucial humanitarian interventions throughout the country with nine offices and some 200 national and international staff on the ground, In 2011 UNHCR's national implementing partners Society for Humanitarian Solidarity (SHS) received the Nansen award for their dedicated service to providing life-saving assistance to the thousands of refugees and migrants who arrive on the shores of Yemen every year after crossing the Gulf of Aden by boat.
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