The Plight of Internally Displaced Persons in Yemen
3 min read
Posted on: 7th October 2014
The report, published on 18 September, 2014, and entitled "resolving displacement essential for long-term peace and stability", identifies three main conflict hubs in Yemen that have created 334,626 total estimated internally displaced persons from a population total of 26 million. Of these conflict hubs, one is in the north where the Houthi movement has clashed with government and government-backed tribal militias since 2004; another is in the central and southern regions, where civil protests against (now former) President Ali Abdullah Saleh beginning in 2011 caused intermittent but intense fighting between rival factions for control of the capital, Sana'a; the third is in the south where Ansar al-Sharia, an affiliate of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, took advantage of civil unrest in the capital to seize territory (much of which the group has since lost but central government control remains weak). Natural disasters ranging from drought to floods, landslides and earthquakes increase the hardships of IDPs as well as adding to their numbers.
"The achievement of durable solutions for Yemen's IDPs is vital to ensure peace and stability"
Yemen already ranks near the bottom of humanitarian and economic indices, but IDPs are especially vulnerable. Issues include access to shelter, water, food, nutrition, sanitation, education and healthcare. Food, water, and nutrition scarcity is exacerbated by the widespread cultivation of Khat, a mild narcotic consumed widely in the country. Aid workers have also noted a worrying trend whereby IDPs who return or would like to return home find an inhospitable environment, continued violence or even less public services available in their own communities than in camps and host communities. As a result, some who did return home have again become IDPs.
The Executive Unit for IDPs, established in 2009, is a process to decrease the burden on IDPs, though its implementation plan has not yet materialised. A further process to address the underlying developmental and political causes of conflict and displacement is the National Dialogue Conference, established to frame the political transition, as well as action plans to address insecurity issues. However, implementation of the plans, the report comments, has been "patchy at best".
The international response is hampered by insecurity on the ground, visa issues, a lack of domestic partners and under-funding. A United Nations response plan launched in February 2014 for example, was only 42.2 percent funded by September 2014.
The government in Sana'a does not control large portions of northern Yemen and pockets of communities in southern Yemen.
Only 2.6 percent of Yemen is arable. On-going conflicts and increasing effects by climate change risk increasing land and resource-based displacements and conflicts.
Since recording of IDPs began in 2009, the peak year for IDPs was 2012 when there were 545,000 registered IDPs. The majority were in the north. That number has decreased in 2014 to 334,626, but the majority of IDPs remain in the northern and central governorates: Sa'ada: 103,014; Hajjah: 89,136; Amran: 71,548; Sana'a: 46,228; and Al Jawf: 24,700.
As of March 2014, as much as 90 per cent of Yemen's IDPs are thought to live outside designated camps. This is largely driven by cultural, religious and economic motivations.
Many IDPs find increased discrimination and decreased personal safety caused by perceived ethnic or kinship association with various factions of conflicts and hostility from host communities due to scarce resources.
Possession of small arms is widespread which increases the likelihood clashes will be violent.
Numerous conflict factions have been accused of systematically recruiting children, including government security forces, pro-government militias, the Houthi movement and Ansar al-Sharia.
Women and children face increased risk of domestic and gender based violence, including: child marriage (often considered a coping mechanism to conflict), female genital mutilation, marital rape, sexual slavery, abduction, forced marriage and others. Between January and May 2014, 85 percent of victims in criminal cases registered among displaced, returnee and host communities in the southern governorates were women and children. It is likely that most instances were not registered.
As of February 2014, over 38,000 families in urgent need of shelter.