Internally Displaced People in Yemen Present a Humanitarian Challenge
Local populations and displaced people have continued to bear the brunt of ongoing hostilities, with some seeing their homes destroyed or having to flee their communities and displacement sites. The overall civilian casualty figures and the number of displaced persons remain unclear due to continued fighting in the affected areas. While IOM estimates that 1,532 families (11,000 individuals) have been displaced between 8 February and 9 March 2021, the Executive Unit for IDPs (Government of Yemen) estimates that 2,053 families (about 14,371 individuals) were displaced as of 27 February. Aid agencies estimate that the actual number of displaced families might be much higher. A large number of displaced families fled to safer areas within Sirwah District, Ma'rib Al Wadi District and Ma'rib City, with most displacement being secondary from existing displacement sites and locations to safer areas in Sirwah District. According to IOM, Al Rawdah IDP site in Sirwah, which hosted 677 families before the recent hostilities broke out, has seen its population increase three-fold. This influx has strained existing resources at the site, stoking tensions between existing residents and new arrivals. According to the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster, the proximity of the site to combat areas raises major protection and safety concerns for the displaced people hosted at the site. It has also made the delivery of services to them more challenging.
Pre-existing and newly displaced people continue to be concerned about their safety and worry that fighting might force them to move again. The fighting has not abated, and if it continues, more civilians are expected to flee towards the eastern outskirts of Sirwah and into Ma’rib City, where displacement sites are already crowded and response capacities are overstretched. Should hostilities move towards Ma’rib City and close surrounds, partners estimate that some 385,000 people could be displaced, outside of the city and into Hadramawt and Shabwah governorates. This would make accessing services and assistance more difficult, and place significant strains on the limited resources available. Humanitarian partners on the ground have identified shelter, food, water and sanitation, health and protection assistance as the most urgent needs for newly displaced families.
Health partners have activated mobile medical teams and are bringing in health equipment and supplies from Aden to support operations in Ma’rib Governorate. Nine surgical kits, in addition to blood bags and anesthesia drugs, were provided to hospitals in the affected areas, including six to the Ma’rib General Hospital. Partners also provided the hospital with five trauma kits, with another two expected to arrive in a week. They have further mobilized 30 basic Interagency Emergency Health Kits (IEHKs), providing 20 to health facilities in Ma’rib Governorate and 10 to Al Abr Health Centre in Hadramawt, Humanitarian partners continue to scale up response in Sirwah, Ma’rib Up to 12,000 displaced people have already been assisted in Ma’rib, which has been receiving a large number of displaced people from Ma’rib Governorate. The Health Cluster is planning to distribute 150 IEHKs (both basic and supplementary) within a week, including laboratory and blood bank supplies. Partners are mobilizing a mobile medical team to provide services to displaced people in Al Rawdah IDP site, while six other teams are providing services to displaced people in other sites. Partners have also supported the Rawdah Health Center with staff and medicines.
Support is being provided for comprehensive emergency obstetric and newborn care at three Ma’rib hospitals and basic emergency obstetric and newborn care at one health facility, while 51 reproductive health kits have been provided to health facilities in the governorate. Partners have dispatched ambulances and a surgical team to Kara Hospital to support those injured due to hostilities. They continue to provide medical supplies to the Ma’rib General Hospital and several primary health care facilities and plan to mobilize ten other mobile medical clinics to districts with high numbers of IDPs. Maternal and neonatal health services are being supported in Kara Hospital and Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) supplies are being provided to health facilities in four Ma’rib districts.
WASH Cluster partners continue to provide daily water supplies to an estimated 1,050 families currently hosted in Al Rawdah IDP site. Preparations are underway to increase the number of water storage tanks in the camp, with 550 tanks expected to be installed next week. Partners are coordinating plans with local authorities to expand some existing water networks to reach new beneficiaries, including newly displaced families.
Humanitarian Partners Continue to Scale-up Response and Preparedness
OCHA deployed two staff to Ma’rib Governorate and are transitioning the existing Ma’rib Coordination Taskforce to a fullfledged local Regional Coordination Team (RCT) in order to strengthen coordination in the governorate. The existing Taskforce is comprised of nine clusters (Food Security, Camp Management, Shelter, WASH, Health, RRM, Nutrition, Protection and Education). Additionally, in coordination with cluster partners, OCHA has finalized a Ma’rib Operational Plan focusing on key humanitarian interventions to cover the needs of an estimated 200,000 people: 105,000 people projected to be displaced in the next six months. According to the plan, partners will provide urgent life-saving assistance to newly displaced people over a 90-day period from their arrival. The plan also aims to support some 95,000 displaced people in acute need – or 80 per cent of all displaced people who are living in sites in Ma’rib Al Wadi and Ma’rib City. These areas are where the largest concentration of displaced people is located and is expected to host further new arrivals over the coming period.
The limited number of partners with full operational presence and requisite capacity has challenged the timely delivery of assistance to IDPs across Ma’rib Governorate. Still, some 25 aid organizations, comprising seven UN agencies, 6 INGOs and 12 NNGOs are working in the governorate. Up to 12,000 displaced people have already been assisted.
Service Provision under Duress
Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) partners have provided life-saving assistance, including ready-to-eat food, hygiene kits and women transit kits to 2,230 displaced families in five districts in Ma’rib Governorate – including Sirwah, Ma’rib City and Al Jubah – and 23 districts in neighboring governorates. Additionally, Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC) partners distributed food assistance to 1,211 families (some 8,500 people). Plans are underway to provide food baskets and shelter kits to 1,700 families in Al Rawdah IDP site and multi-purpose cash assistance to 1,000 newly displaced families in Ma’rib City and Sirwah District.
Nutrition Cluster partners supported 82 outpatient therapeutic feeding programme (OTP) sites, 46 infant and young child feeding (IYCF) corners and mobilized 728 community health and nutrition volunteers (CHNVs). Partners plan to transport supplies to 80 OTP sites, while supporting supervision for all OTP sites in Ma’rib Governorate. Partners are supporting the provision of health and nutrition services in Al Gofinah displacement site, which hosts around 7,000 families, in Ma’rib City. They have also mobilized mobile clinics to provide nutrition services to 25,200 children under five. Partners are providing support to 66 cases of severe acute malnutrition (SAM), 234 cases of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and 185 pregnant and breastfeeding women, which have been identified in displacement sites.
However, partners are facing challenges in covering sanitation needs in Al Rawdah and other IDP sites in the governorate, mainly constrained by the high cost associated with the installation of latrines (especially in areas characterized by rocky soil requiring the use of heavy equipment), the volatile security situation, and concerns about potential movement of IDPs.
Shelter and Non-Food Items (NFI) partners have assisted 243 newly displaced families with tents, provided emergency shelter kits (ESKs) to 311 families, and distributed NFI packages to 554 families. Distribution of 286 NFIs and 283 ESKs is underway. Additional supplies – 1,000 NFI packages and 500 ESKs – are currently being mobilized from Aden and expected to arrive within 10 days. Partners indicate that available emergency shelter and NFIs stocks are extremely low due to a funding shortage and warn that they will not be able to cope with further displacement.
Protection Cluster partners are responding with cash assistance, legal counselling and psychosocial support (PSS) targeting all newly displaced families, while protection monitoring is ongoing. Additionally, two women and girls’ safe spaces and mobile teams have assisted nearly 2,000 individuals, providing them with psychological first aid, legal aid, awareness sessions and referrals since January 2021. Child protection actors are also delivering mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) and life skills in five schools in Ma'rib City, in addition to regular case management and MHPSS activities targeting conflict-affected districts and districts hosting displaced people across Ma'rib Governorate. Child protection actors in Ma'rib assisted 55 unaccompanied and separated children to be reunified; their caregivers have already been identified and the reunification process is ongoing.